Our friend Ulysses and desperation

Day Two – Our friend Ulysses and desperation

There is this song on Christian radio that I am just not a fan of. I tried. I really did. I tend to be pretty flexible about types of music. I don’t have really critical opinions about lyrics. I try to put the best perspective on each artist’s work. But every time this song came on, it grated on my nerves so much, that I had to turn the station.
It sounds harsh and critical, so I’m not even going to tell you the song, but the chorus repeats over and over again, “I’m overwhelmed…I’m overwhelmed by You.”
I turned to Dave during a Saturday afternoon drive and said, “I figured it out. I don’t want to be overwhelmed. That song may work for some people, but life already feels pretty overwhelming to me most days, and I don’t want to be overwhelmed by anything or anyone else. And I’m not sure that’s even a good character description of God.” 

Dave, who had limited previous interest in my struggle with the song fully supported my contemplations, as a good and caring husband, with a “Hmmmm…that’s good you figured it out. So, about that hockey game…” 😉
You may feel like Dave, a little disinterested in Heidi’s rant about a random song, but I think Solomon might cozy up to the table for a cup of coffee and a contemplative discussion. He tells us in Ecclesiastes 2:20-23:
“So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.”
Solomon was clearly overwhelmed. He tells us his “heart despaired over all the toil.” The toil of life can get to us, it’s completely normal and in the coming days we’ll talk about how it is often “seasonal.”
But to some degree, the struggle and the toil of life just is. It always will be. It will not go away. We can let the anxiety build and become overwhelmed. We can experience depression and we certainly need to seek help in lifting us from the darkness, but I don’t believe Solomon was dealing with clinical chemical imbalance depression.
Solomon was dealing with realization. He discovered that life is struggle. Period. And that is overwhelming. 

Many of us can relate. As we become adults, we begin to feel the often-crushing weight of life and it’s burdens. We have all joy in Christ, and still wonder how in the world we missed how difficult it all was the first 21 years of our life.
Luther’s take on this was so interesting to me and so exceptionally put, that I had to share it:
“Consider the labors of Hercules, the monsters whom Ulysses and others had to overcome, the bear, the lion, and the Goliath with whom David had to contend. Any who are ignorant of this art will eventually grow weary.”
You see, when we are ignorant of the struggle of life, we collapse when we are faced with it. And often times the struggle is a daily realization. 

Children die, captive to poverty and malnutrition, slavery is still alive and well in our world, miscarriages and cancer steal loved ones from us. The struggle is real, even on good and wonderful mountaintop days. We are left realizing that the grass does in fact wither and flowers do in fact fade, life itself is a chasing after the wind where no legacy we strive for or ambition we attempt is enough to leave a true mark.
But again, with God, our perspective changes. The struggle isn’t less, but we can sit in it, live it, watch it swirl around us and not be overwhelmed. The struggle is where we can share the message and see His grace and mercy and salvation. We can live life and live it to the full, not weighed down but lifted up in Him.
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9
 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 10:10
Thank you, Father! Thank you for struggle and mercy and daily provision. Thank you for Your gentle love and Your perfect justice. To You, O Lord, we lift up our days, our families, and our work. Tend to us with Your care and help us to shine You in all we do. In Jesus precious name, Amen.

Discussion questions:
When in your life did you first become aware that there were struggles?
When you were young what person or people helped you to process the difficult things in the world around you? 
Can you think of any moments that you were able to help someone else through a struggle (large or small!)?

Heart verse:
I perceived that what God does endures forever
                                                               Ecclesiastes 3:14a

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