I’ve been unemployed for about two months now, without stead work for even longer. Being unemployed is about as fun as finding a scorpion in your shoe and I’m betting you agree. There’s a feeling of entrapment, sometimes desperation, trying to earn a living. But with unemployment around 8% according to the NY Times, and that’s just in the US, going without a job is scary.
But today, I felt stirred to encourage those around me who are also unemployed. For one, I want to say YOU ARE NOT ALONE! We’re in this together. I also wanted to share some tips I’ve learned about how to live without a job.
Two notes: 1, these are generally for a Christian audience, but there are many gems that non-Christians can also glean.
2–It’s all based on looking forward to the next job. Work is a biblical principle, so if you’re looking for excuses to be lazy, keep walking.
Now for the 10-count, though not in any specific order.
1. LET YOUR EMOTIONS OUT
If you’re like me (human), you’ll have an emotional firestorm inside you at some point, especially if you were laid off or fired. Don’t bottle this stuff up, it’s corrosive. Find a trusted friend or family member and let the word vomit flow. I sat my wife down and told her that I was depressed, angry, hurt, even suicidal at times. But part of getting over emotions is letting them out. Often, as soon as we vent our feelings, they go away.
More importantly, tell God. God wants your raw, unattractive feelings, even towards him. I’ve challenged God, yelled at him, cried on his shoulder, even blasphemed. You know what God did? He embraced me, every time. No matter how ugly I was, he always turned my attitude around and turned my fury into worship. God can take your unfiltered heart. How else could he change it?
2. FIGHT DEPRESSION
It’s good to vent, and we all have plenty of bad days, but deep, dark depression does nothing more than cripple you, hold you back, and lie to you. It’s not just going to go away, either. You have to FIGHT it off. Your heart will tell you it’s hopeless, but remember the promises of God. He cares, he loves you, and you must cling to those promises and fight back against the darkness.
Sometimes it’s a spiritual battle. I’ve had to cast out demons of worthlessness as I’ve said in this post, and they keep returning. Dark spirits use depression, fear, worthlessness, and a host of other evils to weigh you down. Stand your ground, take your authority as a child of God, and wage bloody war.
3. GET A VICE GRIP ON GOD
1 and 2 culminate in this. Scour the Bible, listen to sermons, and recall the times God has spoken to you in your past, all for the sake of remembering the Unchanging God (Malachi 3:6). He was good in the Old Testament, he’s good now. What has he done for you and to you? Cling to those promises, grasp his cloak, hold on to Jesus so tightly that you would crush a mortal man’s flesh. The world will try to rip you away, so hold fast, no matter how hard the wind blows, how the seas howl, how the darkness rips at your very flesh.
God is mighty and mighty to save. He is a fierce warrior and king. All the world is his, who else can save you? Your emotions will tell you he isn’t there. Your circumstances will tell you he’s not able. The Devil will tell you he doesn’t care. The Word of God counters all these things, and that Word is Truth.
DO. NOT. LET. GO.
4. DO WHAT YOU CAN
Mark Batterson has a great quote from The Circle Maker. “Pray like it depends on God, work like it depends on you.” We’ve discussed clinging to God, now for our part. Reliance on God is no excuse to be lazy; we do have a part to play.
What have I been doing while being unemployed? Applying for jobs, of course! Lately, I’ve been averaging two a day, every day. If I keep that up, that’s 14 applications every week, 56 a month! Get out there and look for work, use the very ends of all your resources. Don’t give up; God values diligence.
And while you’re looking, what else can you do? Are there little projects you’ve been meaning to do? Well, you have free time, so have at it! Perhaps you can volunteer somewhere and give the gift of work until you’re paid for it again. In my case, I’ve been writing. In fact, I finished a novella that I want to publish someday! This free time is good for productivity, so do whatever you can, keep working until God gives you a job again.
First of all, go hang out with people! You have free time, right? Visit those you’ve been meaning to and kindle relationships.
Second of all, try to network with people who may help you get a job. If you’re in engineering, find an engineer. If you’re in teaching, find a teacher. But wherever you go, mention your search for a job. I got a summer job because I told the Youth Pastor, whose father-in-law needed a helper where he worked. People know people, so let people know that you’re looking for work. Word-of-mouth is a surprisingly effective employment tool!
6. DO THE BUDGET SHUFFLE
Unemployment forces you to reconsider how you are spending your money, and that’s a good thing. It helps you prioritize spending and cut out what you don’t need. If you don’t have a budget, sit down and make one, you’ll spend more wisely with it. If you do have a budget, sit down and tweak it to your current situation.
Cut eating out, entertainment, blow money, random expenses that you don’t really need. Shop at thrift stores and cheap grocery stores. Does Starbucks really need that money more than you do?
If things get bad enough, what can you sell? Do you really need that fancy car over a simpler one? Do you need a car at all? Do you need that latest game system? Do you need those fancy clothes? What can go?
7. KEEP ON GIVING
There’s one budget you should never cut, and that’s giving. Remember the widow in Luke 21: 1-4? She gave her very last pennies, and Jesus honored her in front of the crowd. God loves generosity, even if we don’t have much to give. The woman only gave what amounted to a few cents, but Jesus loved it.
My wife and I have a very small giving budget of $25 a month. It’s all we can give, and even that seems foolish to an outsider. But we refuse to let unemployment change our hearts. We want to be generous because God has been generous to us. Keep giving, for when you give out of your need, God sees that and blesses you in return.
8. GET CREATIVE WITH MAKING MONEY
Now for the income. You don’t have a job, but what CAN you do? My wife recently got cleaning and nannying gigs from time to time. She also draws and has made a few commissions. In the past, I’ve offered my editing services. I have a VHS-to-DVD/Blu-Ray burner and I made a few bucks doing that for friends and family (any takers??). Do you have any skills you could market, even for a small fee?
There are a lot of ways to make a few bucks, you just have to get creative! Heck, your hobbies may be able to make some money, and who knows? Perhaps this will become your new passion and your new job!
Unemployment can be used to push you towards that dream job. One of the things God has been teaching me is the necessity of dreaming. I didn’t know how until now and I recently began applying for a job in a publishing house. When you look deep into yourself and the dreams God has planted in you, you begin to see what makes you come alive. God doesn’t want you to be depressed for your income, he wants you to do something that makes you glow, something that He himself DESIGNED you do do! And he’ll take care of the money.
What is your dream? If you could do anything, what would it be? What abilities do you have that you would love to use for an income?
10. ENJOY IT
A few weeks ago on a Friday, I took my wife up to Pere Marquette state park in Illinois, where we hiked the mountains and beheld miles of beauty below us. That Friday had promised to be unusually warm for January and the weekend would have been too cold. Had I a job, I could not have gone out on a weekday, but God provided a little joy for us.
There are several perks to being unemployed, and while you should be looking for work, do not neglect this unusual opportunity. Don’t let your time without a job bring you down. Be like Paul and learn to be content in all circumstances (Philippians 4: 12-13). Find joy in this time, too. I’ve been able to write a lot and read even more thanks to my free time. I’ve gone on walks, spent time with God, even goofed off!
As a matter of fact, if you are unemployed, I challenge you to take an entire day…and WASTE IT! Play video games, watch a movie marathon, sleep until two in the afternoon, eat a gallon of ice cream, curl up with a book and some cocoa (mmmm). Spend the day exactly as you want it. Yes, I said so myself that diligence is key, but do not overwork yourself trying to get work! Take advantage of this unique opportunity. Don’t squander it all, but select some time for your enjoyment. Have a little fun while you can.
I hope this list has been helpful. I tried to cover some theological truths and some practical ones. I just hope to encourage you in this time and show you how you can make the most of your situation. Keep your head up, God is there, even if you can’t feel him. Use this time to better yourself, plan for the future, and enjoy every stage of life.