|The Spiritual Uses of Unemployment|
God Is in Control
I never really thought it would happen to me. Unemployment always seemed to be someone else’s problem.
When the economy got shaky and some of my friends in technology or business got laid off, I would sometimes joke that even if my career—Christian journalism—was not lucrative, at least it was stable. Now the joke, as it were, is on me.
On May 19, which will forever live in my memory as “Black Tuesday,” my bosses called me into an office to give me the news. I had just finished the most productive year of my career and had been on a track of acquiring more and more responsibility and producing more and more for my employer.
But as I walked in, one of my superiors was fighting back tears, the other glum. Because of economic conditions, my job was being discontinued. As I tried to process what was happening through my sudden mental numbness, it began to sink in that I, my wife of 22 years, and my three children were now on our own.
There would be no office, no salary, no insurance (at least, no affordable insurance), no bylines, no vacations, no interesting discussions of cultural events and trends, and no deadlines (except those relating to severance, insurance, retirement funds, and the like).
Paradoxically, I have discovered that while holding a job is busy, life as a “recently employed” person is much busier. My work now is never done, and it comes at me from all sides. Besides tending to issues of severance, unemployment insurance, and COBRA, I’m busy polishing my C.V., sending faxes, alerting friends and members of my network of my new status, applying for jobs, or (more likely) trying to find out whether there are any jobs to apply for. It’s exhausting, no doubt worsened by the disorientation and depression that are natural parts of the grieving process you must walk through.
Unemployment is humbling, as you pray “Give us this day our daily bread” with renewed vigor. Suddenly things like salary, career fit, and responsibility become secondary to practical matters like location and benefits. You’ll take a long look at a position you never would have considered before, if only to report something positive to your sighing wife.
After less than two weeks of converting my thinking from being a “productive member of society” to someone who looks to government and private largesse to survive, I’m in no sense an expert on joblessness (and hope never to become one). But as a follower of Jesus Christ, I do see the spiritual value of this experience. Here are some of the lessons I am learning. They’re helping me get through each day, and perhaps they will help you, too.
1. It’s okay as a Christian to acknowledge that unemployment stinks.
2. God is in control, and He brought this stinky situation into our lives for a reason.
3. My desire is to respond to this new chapter of my life like a Christian.
4. I have decided not to become angry or bitter.
5. Somewhat in contradiction to No. 4, unemployment, as bad as it is (and it is bad), is far from the worst thing that could happen to you.
6. I am learning that none of the good gifts I have received belongs to me, and God is well within His rights to take them back.
7. This suffering is building my character and preparing me to stand with others who suffer.
8. Our family has been blessed by the kindness and thoughtfulness of many others.
9. I recall that I will be rewarded for my faithful obedience as I traverse this valley of gloom.
The reward may simply be more of Him, and that will be enough, both now and in the future. As Romans 8:18 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Stan Guthrie lost his job at Christianity Today International in May, along with 30 other company employees. Now a CT editor at large, he is pursuing a freelance career consisting of writing, editing, speaking, and teaching. He and his wife, Christine, and their three children live near Chicago.
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