Tuesday, 06 November 2012 00:48

A Christian Perspective on Dealing with Unemployment

Written by  Jennifer Slattery
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About six years ago, our family went through a period of unemployment. Fear and bitterness consumed me, and although I knew in my head I needed to cling to God, my heart propelled me in the other direction. Through that experience I learned, experientially, God is good even when life is hard, and His love is greater than our emotions.

 

In the Christian community, it’s easy to lump all negative emotions as sin. We read commands to rejoice during trails and assume depression is failure, but biblical joy is not a temporary, surface emotion. According to John C. Hutchinson, author of Thinking Right When Things Go Wrong, “The biblical teaching of joy or rejoicing has more to do with confidence in one’s convictions than it does with emotion.” Joy is a deep assurance that God is good even when life is not. This is not an emotional stance, but instead, a choice of belief. 

Emotions aren’t good or bad.According to Prattville licensed social worker Jennifer Humphrey, unemployment can often lead to depression. “Studies show that those unemployed for six months or longer have higher rates of depression than the average person,” Humphrey said.  “Unemployment is a significant life event. Much like death or divorce, it is a loss and brings sadness, fear, and anger.”

Humphrey also believes depression can threaten our sense of identity and worth. “For both men and women much of our identity is tied to our job and/or chosen profession. Consequently, the loss of employment can affect how we feel about ourselves. Prolonged discouragement and feelings of hopelessness often produce depression. Depression is an illness like any other, and there are very specific symptoms and treatment options.”

Depression is not unique to the 21st century. Throughout Scripture we read accounts of faith-filled men and women continually used by God who went through periods of depression. Elijah’s emotions grew so intense, he wanted to die. In the Psalms David expressed moments of great pain. Job poured out his heart in an expression of raw, honest emotions.  He even accused God of hunting him down like a lion. Yet God didn’t condemn Job, but instead, reminded Job of his limited understanding. 

Be honest. God already knows how you feel and what you’re thinking anyway. Praying through your feelings will help draw you to God.

We may wonder: “Is it okay to be mad at God?” This makes me think of my relationship with my daughter and the countless times she’s been mad at me.

When our daughter was eight we moved and it hit her hard. One day, she scrunched her face, balled her fists, and yelled, “I hate you!”

That hurt. A lot. Not because of her words, but because I saw the pain beneath them. What I wanted most was not to scold her, but to hold her. To draw her into my arms and to comfort her with my love.

Psalm 103:14 indicates God feels the same about us:

 

 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.

Draw near to God and resist the urge to pull away.  Emotional pain, whatever the cause, has a tendency to lead to isolation. No matter what we are going through, no matter how we may feel, God wants to be our all-in-all. He wants us to draw near to Him, trusting in His love and unfailing nature, even if everything appears to point to the contrary. James 4:8 makes us a promise: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

Whether we feel Him or not, God is there. He will never leave nor forsake us.

According to Felicia Pressley of Pressley Counseling, located in Montgomery, actively practicing the disciplines of our faith can help us view our situation from God’s perspective. “We all feel discouraged at times,” Pressley said. “However, the second step after being discouraged is to pull yourself together with Scripture and prayer.” She encourages us to remember that God has designed our lives and longs to guide us to His perfect will. “When we pray and meditate, understand that we are in communication with God. We have to listen and order our steps accordingly so we continue the path God has for us.” 

Drawing near to God during our times of trial helps, but often it’s not enough. It’s also important not to isolate ourselves. “When people isolate, they are attempting to handle everything on their own,” Pressley said. “[This can lead to] continual feelings of despair and depression.”

It can also prevent us from finding employment. “You can’t network in isolation,” Humphrey said. 

God placed us in a family of believers for a reason. His desire is that we would turn to one another during our time of need.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 reminds us of the importance of living in community—of leaning on others during our time of need:

 

 9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV).

 

When dealing with unemployment, this can be hard. We live by an unspoken, faulty belief that says, “If you work hard, you’ll find success.” But the Bible says differently and promises we’ll experience difficulty. Yet, no matter what happens, everything is first filtered through the hand of a loving God. Which means every tear and heartache has a purpose.

We know this intellectually, but that truth can be hard to grasp. It’s easy to assume God is somehow against us or we are being punished for some unknown sin.

This view may come from a misunderstanding of the word discipline. The Bible tells us that God disciplines those He loves, and in our “time-out” world, we’ve come to equate discipline as punishment. But the word itself, paideuo in the Greek, means “a child under development with strict training” – properly, to train up a child (país), so they mature and realize their full potential (development).

God’s discipline—His training to maturity—is similar to how a coach responds to athletes. During training, coaches focus diligently on those who want to win, pushing them hard in order to bring out their best.

Intentionally focus on the unchanging nature of Christ. God is merciful and loving. He always does what is right. His every action is rooted in love because He loves us deeply and is intimately involved in our lives. His goal is not to break us, but instead, to raise us up like a prize athlete, victorious and free. Like Job, we may not always understand why we must go through trials like unemployment. We may react with intense anger and despair, but God remains faithful and promises to carry us through it. Knowing this allows us to be honest and authentic with our emotions, and to draw near to God in confidence, knowing He’s on our side.

 

 

Jennifer Slattery is a freelance writer.

Last modified on Tuesday, 06 November 2012 00:51
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