The Spiritual Uses of Unemployment


This is the three-minute talk I presented at College Church on June 14, 2009. A longer version for print will be coming.

By Stan Guthrie © 2009

On May 19, which I now call “Black Tuesday,” my bosses gave me the news. One was fighting back tears, the other glum. Because of economic conditions, my job was being eliminated. 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 our three children were suddenly facing a very uncertain future.

My story is far from unique. About 8.5 million people in the United States today are receiving unemployment insurance, and the jobless rate has grown from less than 8 percent in January to 9.4 percent in June. Some economists predict it could reach 11 percent by next summer.

Now I’m no expert on joblessness (and hope never to become one). But as a follower of Jesus, I am beginning to learn some vital spiritual lessons—whether I want to or not. Here are five. Perhaps they will help you, too.

First, respond like a Christian. What difference does Christ make when the chips are down? Can people see any difference in me? Am I willing to follow Jesus wherever he leads—even to the unemployment line?

When the late Tony Snow learned that he had contracted cancer, he heard a quiet voice whisper, “You have been called.” I too have heard this voice. Unemployment, every bit as much as employment, is a calling.

Second, resolve not to become angry or bitter. When “the worst thing that could happen” happens, God is still there.

Third, rest in the truth that God comforts us in our afflictions so that we can comfort others in theirs.

Fourth, receive gratefully the kindness of others. Friends across the street are picking up low-cost groceries for us at their church. Another bought and installed more memory for our ailing computer. Others pray, buy lunch, share job leads, and help with faxes and resumes.

We are learning in ways large and small what it means to be members of Christ’s body.

Fifth, reach out to God and expect his blessing. God has promised to provide what we need. That might involve a better job with higher pay (though again it might not). If it does, praise his goodness; but if, in his mercy, it doesn’t, praise his goodness anyway. The blessing may simply be more of him, and that will be more than enough.

About Stan Guthrie

Stan Guthrie is an editor at large for Christianity Today magazine and for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. His latest book is God's Story in 66 Verses. He also is author of All that Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us, Missions in the Third Millennium: 21 Key Trends for the 21st Century, and A Concise Guide to Bible Prophecy. He is co-author of The Sacrament of Evangelism. Besides authoring, writing, and editing books, Stan is a literary agent, bringing together good authors, good books, and good publishers. Stan writes the monthly Priorities colum for BreakPoint.org. He has appeared on National Public Radio's €œTell Me More,€ WGN's Milt Rosenberg program, and many Christian shows, including The Eric Metaxas Show and Moody Radio'€™s €œNew Day Florida.€ A licensed minister and an inspirational speaker, he served as moderator for the Christian Book Expo panel discussion, Does the God of Christianity Exist, and What Difference Does It Make?
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