A storm was brewing just like the one we weathered and persevered through in the past, but we had to admit that this time it appeared more daunting. With a shaky economy, and on our way to senior citizenship, yet not in a position to retire, the outlook wasn’t promising when my husband lost his job – again.
Being employed as a sales representative with nationwide companies, my husband was accustomed to the changes that career often brought. Sales is a tricky profession; when times are good, they’re really good. But when the economy takes a turn for the worse, a salesman’s job can be frustrating.
Over the years, my husband persevered through several company downsizings and always managed to retain a job. Even when a competitor bought his company and his position was eliminated, he had managed to snag a new job with a former customer within just a few days. When we decided to sell our Pacific Northwest home and relocate across the country to care for aging parents, again my husband fortunately found a new sales job back in our home state.
We thanked the Lord for provisions that enabled us to acquire a new home and to raise our three children, sending them off to college one-by-one. But as our last offspring neared his final year of school, unemployment loomed once more. It’s difficult for anyone to lose a job, but it’s even more so for a husband and father, a Christian leader in his home.
When God created our human bodies, He also created us to accomplish our work. He charged Adam and Eve to be stewards of the Garden of Eden, not just to lounge around being idle or amusing themselves with leisure activities all day. Instead, they were to care for the garden and make it fruitful – to work. (Genesis 2). As believers in Christ, our purpose for work is to serve and glorify Him. God instilled the need and desire in man to labor for a living, to provide for family, and support the missions of the church through tithes and gifts.
Like it or not, work defines a man because it is vitally important to him and provides a sense of well-being. And when the rug of identity and security is pulled out from under a man as he loses a job, it more than knocks him off his feet; it undermines his confidence causing him to feel like an unworthy failure.
Losing a job once is hard enough, but to experience it several times can be demoralizing, unnerving, and even devastating. Worry sets in and sleepless nights ensue. As the joblessness period continues month after month, a man searches every means possible to find employment and fight discouragement. The search can prove overwhelming and extremely disheartening at the same time which leads to depression and even more anxiety.
My husband battled the unemployment enemy just as surely as he had been trained as a former Army officer to battle foes. He sent out resume after resume by any means possible. He registered with internet job search sites and spent considerable time each day scouring sites online. Newspaper ads, job fairs, networking with friends and acquaintances in the sales field – he attempted them all.
And yet, nothing surfaced.
Cover letters and resumes appeared to be ignored. Networking failed to make connections that led to interviews. Job fairs proved fruitless because he was told countless times that he was overqualified for the entry-level jobs being offered. He began to sense that the door to job opportunity wasn’t just closed, it was slammed shut. We had battened down the hatches to weather this storm by curtailing our expenses. Now, as we faced a longer season of unemployment, we tightened our budget even more severely eliminating all non-essentials. We opted for no health insurance and hoped we stayed healthy. After paring down our household bills to a bare minimum, we wondered how long we could continue paying our mortgage and contributing to our son’s education. We formed long-term contingency plans.
My part-time salary at a community non-profit organization didn’t cover necessary monthly expenses, so I began searching for full-time employment, too, even though prospects were slim in our rural area. We discussed selling our home, even though we had hoped to live the rest of our lives there. But we realized home wasn’t just the house where we lived, it was where our family gathered together, and that could be anywhere. If need be, we would sell. If downsizing proved imperative, so be it. We even deliberated over relocating to where jobs might be more plentiful. My husband attended a free career seminar in hopes of learning new job search aspects. He also prayerfully considered changing job fields and, even though he had a college degree, contemplated attending trade school to learn new skills. We examined all options and kept praying, focusing on our faith in Christ Jesus.
Somehow, through God’s provisions, we continued to meet necessary expenses. Our son received a huge blessing with a good-paying summer internship and a scholarship which would finance his senior year of college. As we prayed for the Lord’s guidance, our hearts became even more grateful. Instead of surrendering to despair, my husband awakened early each morning commencing anew his job search, no matter how unsuccessful it seemed. He structured his time searching for jobs part of the day, but spending the rest in an entirely different fashion.
My husband opened His Bible and delved deeper into God’s Word. He read, he studied, he contemplated, and he prayed, not just for us, but for others and their needs. And he praised and thanked God for His goodness. Following this new regimen of Bible study and prayer, my husband’s outlook changed. He experienced that peace that passes all understanding when we place total trust in God and His Word. He started sleeping better at night and his newly-found calm demeanor about this season of life eventually rubbed off on me, a chronic worrier. I, too, felt assurance that whatever transpired for us was God’s plan.
We purposely thanked God daily because He was faithful to provide our needs, although not necessarily our wants. We wholeheartedly trusted He would show us what was on His horizon next, and realized that He was asking us to totally rely on Him, do our part, and wait for His perfect timing.
During this time, we sensed the prayers of others upholding us. A retired friend reminded us that we were in his prayers, and each time he asked my spouse how the job search progressed, my husband’s answer remained the same:
“God will provide, and I’m trusting in that.”
One evening as we were leaving Bible study at church, our pastor pulled my husband aside and asked him to lead the next study series. As my husband prayed about this opportunity to serve the Lord, it became clear that God had opened a door, not for employment, but to grow in his spiritual walk, deepen his faith, and learn to rely, depend, and trust even more in God’s plan for the future and encourage others to do the same.
Now a portion of my husband’s day was spent, not just reading and studying scripture, but preparing to lead a weekly Bible study. He still perused job sites and searched diligently for employment because he knew he must do his part in the quest. But it occurred to us that he was living out his favorite scripture:
“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles.” Isaiah 40:31
As my husband waited and submersed himself in the Word, God’s perfect timing became very real to us. An interview led to a job offer with a small, local company owned by a Christian businessman. It wasn’t a high-powered position with a large salary and perks, but having already realized we could live on much less, it would meet our needs.
The position involved little to no overnight travel, something that had wearied my husband in the last few years of his career. As empty-nesters, I relished having my husband home every night for dinner so the two of us could spend more time together. This answer to prayer blessed us in ways we hadn’t even thought about. The Lord already knew our needs and how He would provide them. And amazingly, my husband encountered an emotion he hadn’t felt for a very long time – he was excited to work!
Each day we thank God for His provisions, but we are even more grateful for how He strengthened our faith during difficult times. Being jobless doesn’t mean being hopeless when your trust is in Christ Jesus.