Monday, September 12, 2016

But That's Not FAIR!

My daughter had to write an essay about injustice last school year.  She is a third culture kid, a child who has spent so much time outside of her "home" culture that she no longer truly belongs to either her home or adopted culture. Writing that essay was hard for her.  Abandoned babies, starving children, bribery and persecution aren't abstract concepts but the stories of people she knows. More than most 15 year olds, she understands how useless complaining about life's injustices is. 

She has that in common with Daniel.  

He too was a child of two places.  As a teen/pre-teen he was yanked from his comfortable position as a young Judean nobleman and taken as a slave to the palace of Nebuchadnezzar.  He was the ancient poster child of human trafficking.  

Everything about his new life was wrong.  He spoke the wrong language.  His name, which means "God is my judge," was rejected and he was given the name of an idol-worshipper "Belteshazzar." He was offered the wrong food.  No observant Jew could eat the food in Nebuchadnezzar's palace.  He was presented with the wrong drink.  Alcohol was served at the King's table.  Just imagine what would happen to a 13 or 14 year old boy who was given wine 3 times a day.  Even the job they picked for him was wrong.  He was in training to be a "wise-man." Although this is a job we don't have any parallel for, imagine a combination bureaucrat and fortune-teller.  Bureaucracy is scourge but fortune-telling was an abomination before the Lord (Deuteronomy 18:9-13).  

Surely Daniel was tempted to whine, to throw up his hands in self-pity and let everyone know that it just wasn't fair!   

"I had all these plans, dreams.  I just wanted to be with my parents, my people.  Was there something wrong with that?  Why should I be taken so far away? What did I do to deserve to be stuck in this stupid school learning how to kill a sheep and divine the future with its guts?   I miss my friends. I miss my mom! I just want to go home!  It's not fair!" 

And like most of the times that we indulge in self-pity, Daniel wouldn't have been entirely wrong.  It really wasn't fair. 

But life isn't fair. That's why the real question is always, "What am I going to do about it?"  Daniel was an ordinary kid in an extraordinary situation and we (and our kids) can learn a lot from his strategy.

1. Daniel took control of what he actually could control. But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.  (Daniel 1:8)

2. Daniel respectfully went to the authorities. And the commander of the officials said to Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has appointed your food and your drink; for why should he see your faces looking more haggard than the youths who are your own age? Then you would make me forfeit my head to the king.” (Daniel 1:9-10)

3. Daniel didn't give up but continued to respectfully problem-solve.  But Daniel said to the overseer whom the commander of the officials had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink. “Then let our appearance be observed in your presence and the appearance of the youths who are eating the king’s choice food; and deal with your servants according to what you see.” (Daniel 1:11-13)

4. He made the most of the bad situation he was in. Then at the end of the days which the king had specified for presenting them, the commander of the officials presented them before Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and out of them all not one was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s personal service. As for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm.(Daniel 1:18-20)

Daniel's strategy works for the kinds of problems kids face everyday.  Imagine Danny, a 9th grader in a new school with a foul-mouthed English teacher.  (My daughter has just such a teacher.)  Danny has a legitimate beef.  He didn't chose to move; he misses his old friends; he deserves a teacher who can be professional.  But he can't control any of those things.  So Danny does what he can!  He respectfully speaks to his teacher and explains how hard it is for him to hear her use the Savior's name that way.  And Danny's teacher, just like my daughter's, might try to curb her tongue.  

That is Daniel's story told in High School terms.  And if you are saying to yourself that it is unlikely that a freshman moving in from out of town would speak up that way, just imagine Daniel, far from every familiar thing, standing up to the chief official. Impossibly brave.

Sharing this devotional with your children should be straightforward.  Start by reading the first chapter of Daniel with them.  Talk to them about situations in their own lives that aren't "fair".  Really listen because, as a friend frequently reminds me, children's emotions are just like adult's even if the situation causing them is not.  (IE a 7 year old treated unjustly at school feels just as bad as you do when you are treated unjustly at work). Work through Daniel's problem-solving pattern with them and encourage them solve their problems in the same way.  You could also present the first half of Danny's story and ask them to brainstorm how Daniel might have solved the problem.  

Come and join us for next week's devotional for a look at another aspect of Daniel's character!


  1. Loved this! Thanks for another layer of insight from one of my favorites!

    1. Isn't wonderful how deep and nuanced the Word of God is!!!

  2. This is fantastic. Thank you for bringing Daniel's story to life today! What awesome practical points- and fantastic advice. Kid's emotions are the same as ours, even if their problems look different. So humbling and helpful! Thank you!

  3. I love the way God has given us the stories of the Bible. They offer us a way to see ourselves in parallel to a godly person like Daniel and solve our problems in a similar way! Thank you Bethany for your kind comment!