How Can I Be Faithful When I am Struggling With Discontentment? Ecclesiastes 2:20-25

Ecclesiastes 2:20-25 Easy-to-Read Version

20 So I became sad about all the work I had done. 21 People can work hard using all their wisdom and knowledge and skill. But they will die and other people will get the things they worked for. They did not do the work, but they will get everything. That makes me very sad. It is also not fair and is senseless.

22 What do people really have after all their work and struggling in this life? 23  Throughout their life, they have pain, frustrations, and hard work. Even at night, a person’s mind does not rest. This is also senseless.

24-25 There is no one who has tried to enjoy life more than I have. And this is what I learned: The best thing people can do is eat, drink, and enjoy the work they must do. I also saw that this comes from God.[a]

The Word of God for the Children of God.

Adeste Fideles! Laeti Triumphantes! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.

Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

According to Winston Groom,

“Life is like a box of chocolate. You never know what you’re going to get.”

But what if you did?

What if life was always exciting and rewarding?

Could you still be happy?

What about pain?

Suffering? Heartache? Sadness?

Are those emotions essential to living completeness?

Are those emotions essential to living in a complete cycle of struggling

How would you grow?

How would we mature?

What would you learn from a life full of bliss?

What would we learn from a life full of struggling

Do you and I need to struggle at constantly struggling?

Do you and I need to struggle at living a life full of constant bliss?

Within all of this constant and moment to moment barrage of these choices and decisions, how do we remain faithful, what do we remain faithful to, who do we remain faithful to, when do we remain faithful to whatever and whoever it is we are supposed to remain faithful to?

Hmm.. you and I have much to think over, many choices and decisions to make.

Dealing With the Struggles of Life

Everyone faces struggles in life.

It can be as simple as a skinned knee at the playground, or it could be as hard, complex as being confronted by the issues of raising your growing children, growing in your marriage, career and financial choices leading from buying a home for your family, retirement, saving for the college education of children and even by our own, or that of a loved ones chronic life-threatening illness.

All too often we try to face these struggles alone and in private, thinking we have to ‘tough it out’ to get through.

Life’s struggles—they come in all flavors.

They come at the most unexpected times.

They interrupt plans and dreams.

Yet some are chosen!

What are your struggles and how do you cope with them?

For too many it is a struggle with health, such as diabetes or cancer—where the struggle can literally go on for years.

For parents it can be with the struggles of their children.

For some it is a struggle with beliefs and doubts and remaining faithful.

For too many it is a never ending struggle with housing, or finances, or finding a job—or just plain searching for justice and fairness and significant meaning.

Some struggles are thrust upon us and we resent their intrusion very much.

And then sometimes we say, Life’s not fair! 

Bad things happen: things that neither you or I didn’t choose; things neither you or I didn’t, don’t deserve.

And you know what?

That’s really difficult.

As our reading from Ecclesiastes teaches: One thing is for sure about life: we are absolutely guaranteed to have all measure of troubles at some point or another.

There’s no avoiding it.

There is no trying to avoided.

There is not enough bubble wrap in the world to wrap ourselves, our family and friends with to keep us 100% safe and 100% secure from all of life’s alarms.

I think there are two key factors that are essential for overcoming hard times:

  1. my attitude, and
  2. my support system.

Facing Problems in Our Lives

When you face problems in your life:

  • How do you react?
  • What is your attitude about the problem?
  • Are you a worrier?
  • Do you avoid the problem?

Picture the scene:

While walking downtown one hot summer afternoon, you see a crowd gathered before a street preacher, standing atop a soapbox with a megaphone in hand.

In that most unexpected of moments, subtly, suddenly Curiosity (temptation?) gets the better of you and you make the choice and the decision to move closer.

As you approach, you begin to “hear” and “listen” to his message:

Worried about sickness? Jesus is the healer. Worried about hardship? Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Worried about struggles with finances, job loss, or tragedy? Jesus says my yoke is easy and my burden light. I tell you that if you believe in Jesus, then all the worries, anxieties, and troubles of your life will disappear!”

Now, think about it as you are diligently hearing and listening to the words; If someone had publicly proclaimed this message to you, would you believe them?

How about if someone had privately proclaimed this message for your timely or not so timely consideration?

Is it a Word from God?

Is Jesus coming alongside of you and quietly whispering into your soul?

Is the Holy Spirit nudging your rib cage?

In our busyness, I think we all know that the above message, although sounding attractive, lacks a certain measure and degree of reality and believability to us.

As people of faith, we do recognize that our faith is not an escapist dream.

Faith is not an hallucination, illusion or a delusion which rips us away from the inescapable reality of our having to struggle with the fallen world around us.

As followers of Jesus, we are not immune from the struggle, from contending with the inevitable display of all of the imperfections of our life.

Our fallen world will naturally throw conflicts and crises upon us.

To deny this fact is to deny the very world in which we live.

To deny this fact would be to deny the existence of God, the works of God from Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21 the final verse of the Bible.

Consider the opening verse of Genesis:

Genesis 1:1 Easy-to-Read Version

The Beginning of the World

1 God created the sky and the earth. At first,

Now consider the final verse of the Bible;

Revelation 22:21 Easy-to-Read Version

21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all people.

Everything started with God Creating.

In the end, the Grace of the Lord Jesus WILL BE with ALL people.

Jesus is clear about this reality.

He repeatedly tells his disciples that they will be led into times of trouble or persecution; they will witness crises in the heavens and on the earth and will be repeatedly and brutally persecuted and even put before governors and rulers.

Jesus plainly states that the disciples may even be put to death on account of their faith (Luke 21:8-19).

Jesus is honest about the times of struggle his disciples will face.

Furthermore, the history of the church testifies that this is, indeed, what the disciples struggled with and faced and what we will struggle with, have to face.

Given this, what does it mean to be faithful when we are going through a time of difficulty?

How might we respond to the difficulties of life with faithful witnesses?

Here are three things we might consider praying over, a choice to consider, a decision to consider making when these struggles are found on our doorstops.

1. Do Not Deny the Reality of the Struggle

Faith is never lived in the absence of struggle but in response to it.

This is the heart of the incarnation.

The bold and audacious claim of our faith is that God did not, does not, will not ever remain separated from the struggles of life. (Genesis 1:1 – Revelation 22:21)

Instead, in an act of inconceivable, radical love, God physically entered into the affairs of mankind, became incarnate, within our imperfect and fallen world.

God became flesh and entered the fullness of human life. (John 1:1-5)

The incarnation, however, makes no sense without the crucifixion.

Paul writes that “God demonstrates his love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Jesus bore the full weight of the world’s struggle, conflict, rejection, and pain.

From literally the cradle to the cross, from cradle to the grave, Christians can be assured that the resurrected Lord has fully embraced the fullness of human life.

Following Jesus, therefore, isn’t about escaping the difficulties we go through.

We follow Jesus to the cross, which means that we sometimes contend with the fallenness of this world.

Jesus is clear, “In this world, you will have trouble” (John 16:33).

But Jesus is also clear about something even more critical to our struggles;

33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Our faith never keeps us immune from wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, pestilences, or famines nor financial nor healthcare nor any other kind of crisis.

As Christian people, we are called into an imperfect world as agents of new life.

We are given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).

Thus, we do a disservice to ourselves and others when we assume that the faithful response to the ills of the world is to deny their effect upon us.

We are not to run from our hurts or struggles but to acknowledge them.

Faith never masks the struggles of life; it speaks into them.

It is only as we recognize that the Lord stands with us amid the hardships we face that we can testify to Christ’s life-giving power.

Ultimately, faith pertains to real live life and the real live stuff we go through.

2. Proclaim the Good News

It is in the presence of our obstacles that we are to express our faith.

Jesus is honest about the disciples’ upcoming experiences. 

Yet Jesus also states “this will give you the opportunity to testify” (Luke 21:13).

During persecution and rejection, hardship and struggle, crisis of one kind or another, disciples of Jesus are called to “raise up,” bear witness to the gospel.

We bear witness to Jesus by proclaiming how our faith gives us the strength and perseverance to endure.

Paul’s confession, prayers over his thorn in his flesh, for example, is what gave him the opportunity to declare that only God’s grace is sufficient at all times. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

This is exactly what happened with the other disciples.

Their lives of witness, amid profound hardship and persecution moved the gospel throughout the world.

As people saw the effect of Jesus in the lives of the disciples, they began to explore the truth of the gospel in their own life.

The circumstances of our lives become the material for our faithful witness.

As followers of Jesus, we raise up to proclaim the presence of Christ as we have experienced and as we have received him.

“Come and hear…let me tell you what he has done for me,” says the psalmist (Psalm 66:16).

This is the cry of faith.

The call of our faith is never to deny the hardship of the world or to pretend it’s not there. Rather, we stand and declare the power of the gospel.

Ultimately, the reason we can proclaim the good news amid life’s difficulties is because we rest on the promise that “by your endurance you will gain your life” (Luke 21:19).

By leaning on our relationship with Jesus, we gain a deeper life than we could ever possibly imagine; we become mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:4).

Our eternal life isn’t based on a life without problems. It is based on a life in a relationship with Christ. It is that relationship that we proclaim above all else.

3. Be Boldly Faithful

Returning then to our original question, how might we respond in times of struggle, persecution, or hardship?

As followers of Jesus, we are called to be boldly faithful.

We trust that Christ will be with us no matter what we face.

After all, Jesus says that, amid all our trials and difficulties, we are to “raise our heads, because our redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).

Jesus promises our full, total redemption, and in that promise, we have hope.

While the world in its fallenness may ebb and flow away, Jesus secures our futures.

Jesus stands with us regardless of what we may be experiencing.

Thus, we can stand firm in our faith, particularly because no matter what this world throws at us, it will never defeat our life in Christ Jesus.

So, if you are walking through a time of difficulty today, take this promise to heart: the structures of life might crumble around you, but you will remain.

The wealth of all of the nations may come to nothing, but you will survive.

The bastions of security and ease may all dry up, but you and I will endure.

Whatever you and I face in life, whatever discouragement or hardship you and I are, or will inevitably find ourselves walking through, by His resurrection, Jesus says it wont ever have the final word – in faith, we all stand in the power of God.

It All Comes Down To Our Attitude

God talks to us over and over in Scripture about the attitude he wants us to have in difficult times.

This attitude encompasses humility, trust, and joy.

First God calls us to humble ourselves. 

James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

I don’t know if we’ve figured it out yet, but no matter how hard we try to control our life, stuff still happens.

Stuff that you didn’t choose, didn’t plan for, could not possibly plan for.

And some of it seems to be just too much to bear.

Admit that to God.

Don’t try to cast blame or point fingers.

Simply humble yourself and admit you need help.

Second, God calls us to entrust our problems to him.

Let him be the first friend you ‘call’ in times of trouble. 

1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him for he cares for you.”

Nothing is too big or too small for God.

He loves you and wants to carry you through the hard times.

Third, God wants you and me to keep a positive outlook, and even somehow to quite deliberately and quite intentionally and purposely find joy in our trials. 

James 1:2-4 says:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Know that in and within and through every single one our trying times, God is forever with you (Psalm 121) and He, through Jesus is doing a great work in you.

To understand this, ask yourself:

  • What can I learn from this situation?
  • What have I learned about myself?
  • What am I learning about God?
  • Where has God been working in my life up to this point to prepare me and support me?

Believe it or not: Struggles Strengthen Us

There is joy to be had in knowing that hard times won’t last and you will come out of it stronger, wiser, and more mature.

When difficult times hit, remember that God works ALL things for the good of those who love him. (Romans 8:28)

God doesn’t make bad things happen.

That’s just part of being in this world.

But God can make good things come out of any situation.

Some questions to consider:

  • When you face problems in your life, how do you respond?
  • What is your attitude about the problem?
  • How do you move forward?
  • Do you turn to God for help?
  • Do you trust God to hear you and answer you?
  • Are you able to find joy in the midst of your troubles?

So the Word of God teaches that God offers help for those facing struggles.

Not all struggles are bad for us—we can learn some pretty valuable lessons.

Transformation Through Struggle

1 Peter 1:6-9 English Standard Version

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

God’s empowerment for transformation often comes through struggle.

We may reach a point in our lives when we hurt so much that we have to change.

Our faith is refined by fire so that it may become as gold.

As the story goes of a man named Louis Braille;

Nine-year-old Louis was watching his father work with leather in his harness-making shop in nineteenth-century France.

“Someday, Father,” said Louis, “I want to be a harness maker, just like you.”

“Why not start now?” retorted his father.

He took a piece of leather and showed his son how to work with a hole puncher.

Excited, the boy began to work, but soon the hole puncher flew out of his hand and pierced his eye!

He lost sight in that eye immediately.

Later the other eye failed, and Louis was totally blind.

His life came to a standstill until his pain produced a world-changing idea.

Louis was sitting in the family garden, holding a pinecone.

As he ran his sensitive fingers over the layers of the cone, he could picture it clearly in his mind.

Suddenly he thought, “Why not create an alphabet of raised dots to enable sightless people to read?”

So Louis Braille opened a new world for the blind—all because of his pain.

In times of trouble I need to repeatedly, joyfully say, “God has brought me here, God will keep me in his love, and God will somehow make this trial a blessing.”

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray;

Psalm 121 The Message

121 1-2 I look up to the mountains;
    does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from God,
    who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.

3-4 He won’t let you stumble,
    your Guardian God won’t fall asleep.
Not on your life! Israel’s
    Guardian will never doze or sleep.

5-6 God’s your Guardian,
    right at your side to protect you—
Shielding you from sunstroke,
    sheltering you from moonstroke.

7-8 God guards you from every evil,
    he guards your very life.
He guards you when you leave and when you return,
    he guards you now, he guards you always.

Lord Almighty, we know that difficult circumstances produce spiritual growth. Use our trials to make our faith genuine and to honor and glorify your name. In Jesus,

Adeste Fideles! Laeti Triumphantes! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.

Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

Author: Thomas E Meyer Jr

Formerly Homeless Sinner Now, Child of God, Saved by Grace.

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