4 reflections on unemployment

I’ve just emerged from a time of unemployment, well, sort of. I finished a long-ish term position in April this year, and have now just been offered a full time role (praise the Lord!), having had a couple of intermittent short term temporary posts in the intervening period. Here are 4 reflections.

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1. Fundamental truths

You’ll maybe have heard and have believed the basic truth ‘God provides what his children need everyday’ or a variation of it for years. And yet, during the last few months, God has led me to believe this in a fundamentally deeper way as I’ve been unsure as to what the future holds. I think this has something to do with the fact that when a safety net like a job is removed, we (as was the case for me) are forced to trust in God’s providence in a more real way than previously. As we do so, we see the folly of self-reliance and the wisdom of God reliance.

Likewise, you may be familiar with the adage – ‘your value is in Christ.’ During this season of uncertainty, It’s been a real privilege to see more clearly how in a culture that screams at us ‘you are your job’, ‘your value is defined by your career’ and so on, how our value is actually defined solely in Jesus. This is to say that whether we’re a CEO, a cleaner, banker, lawyer, baker or whatever, when God looks at the believer, he sees Jesus – we can have no higher value! As I worried about my friends ‘getting ahead’ in the world of work, and how others might think of me now I was unemployed, God drew me back to this unconditional reality – enabling me in the process to perceive and appreciate this truth more acutely.

2. It’s not about me….

When jobless, it can be very easy to get caught up in ourselves. That is, as we expend lots of energy and time trying to find that job, I think we can become somewhat cocooned, as if the world revolves around me and finding my job. At church, we’ve just started studying Ephesians and one the amazing truths of the book is not only that as believers, we were chosen to be holy and blameless before the foundation of the world, or that God has a plan to unite all things in heaven and earth under Jesus, but that the reason he does these things is so that he might be praised. We’re also told elsewhere in the Bible to do all things to the glory of God. Applied today, the Bible as a whole teaches us that life is not all about me and my life, but about God’s glory, and the praise of that. This acts as a real challenge to me!

3. How’s the job situation?

During the last month, I’ve been greatly blessed as friends and family have shown love and support through prayer, practical advice, offers of financial support and more. I’d like to think that as this has happened, we as the wider body of Christ have grown together in Godliness. As such, we shouldn’t see the joblessness of our brothers and sisters as a burden, or something to be ashamed of, but as an opportunity for love and service.

Having said that, I’ve been doing some thinking about the amount of times I’ve been asked ‘How’s the job situation?’ No doubt, I was asked this out of genuine loving concern. However, I wonder whether the frequency to which this question was put to me shows something of the sometimes unhelpful value we place on work and the employment status of our friends and family. In actual fact, I wouldn’t have minded if my employment position hadn’t been raised as much in conversations. Why? Firstly, out of slight social embarrassment on my part if there had been no change from the previous week, or feeling pressured to put a positive gloss on things when asked that question. Secondly, because our lives don’t revolve around jobs, nor, as discussed already, do they define us.

4. It could be you

In employment terms, we live in an increasingly short term, fragile and transient age. Gone for the most part are ‘jobs for life’, and in are short term temporary assignments, zero hours contracts and consultancy agreements. And while it’s still far too early to assess the consequences of Brexit, sizeable job losses may take place in certain sectors in the months and years to come. Even if you are on a relatively secure, ‘perk-tastic’ contract, many will tell you that an unjust boss, a hostile work culture, and sub-par personal performance could leave you out of work. Put simply, unemployment can happen to anyone. This should keep those of us currently in work humble – not in anyway thinking ourselves as superior as unemployed brothers and sisters.

Summing up

Overall, the last few months have led me to a deeper appreciation of certain biblical truths. I’ve been reminded that trials exist to refine our faith, and to help transform us into the image of Jesus. This time has also helped alter my perspective; in the grand scheme of things, my career really doesn’t matter that much! Finally, God has used the last few months to help me better understand how we can be helping those in the church who find themselves without a job.

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