Facing Unemployment

by Dr. Leslie (Jack) Fyans

I’m facing a layoff at work and am very anxious about what to do. My wife also works, but we can’t make it on her paycheck alone. How can my faith support me during this time?

I hear the very real struggle in your question of not being able to exist on a single income, a fear with which many can identify. But behind that is an uncertainty about who we are as contributing members of society (which is often a particularly heavy burden for men). Even deeper, the loss of a job goes to the core of how we see ourselves as people made in God’s image.

God gives the blessing of work as one way to keep human beings functioning and healthy. And though we might occasionally complain about our job, to lose it shakes our self-confidence.

Among the greatest challenges of unemployment is economic loss, the knowledge that the two-income budget you and your wife have been living on is in serious jeopardy. Worry over money frequently stresses a marriage, even though neither party may be at fault. It also can place stress on your relationship with God.

The message of our culture, and even some of our churches, is that we must be productive to be worthwhile. Some point to the Bible as a collection of success stories, a barometer against which we are to compare our lives. But it is clear that God’s blessing rests both on those who are physically secure as well as those struggling to maintain a basic existence. In the end, it is the poverty, humiliation, and rejection Jesus suffered that makes our own suffering bearable. In His death and resurrection we are assured that it is not our faith in God that sustains us, but His strength in us.

I suggest the following, but please take these suggestions with the understanding that I am not familiar with your circumstances. Take stock of your gifts and skills to give you a realistic picture of your “marketability.” The Internet is a good source for exploring job possibilities. In addition, you might read the best-selling book on job-hunting, What Color Is Your Parachute?, by Richard Bolles. Finally, without minimizing the difficult reality you are facing, I recommend that you reread Luther’s explanation of the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed, with particular attention to these words: “I believe that God . . . richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.”

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