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.
Still lost? Not sure what “Do what you can” means? Cleverism.com has a cool article with several practical tips, mostly focused on job hunting itself. So if you’re thinking, “I don’t know what to do” or “I have to do all the things!” well, click here for some “actionable” steps.
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.
21 thoughts on “10 Tips for the Unemployed/Underemployed Christian”
Absolutely perfect timing on me reading this post! I have been unemployed now for a year and in fact just got back from an interview. It is so hard to keep a positive outlook when you’re in such a bad place, however it is the ultimate test of your faith and trust that God has it mapped out. I have total confidence in His timing and every day I try my hardest to reflect that assurance. Great post and thank you for sharing!! Happy hunting 🙂
I would like to lend my heartfelt encouragement to this generation’s youth. At the age of sixty and semi-retired, it took me awhile to get in touch with what is really happening. Growing up in the sixties and seventies there were some tough times too. I remember my father nearly lost his business in 1973 when the economy was so bad; still, I always found work. It seemed pretty simple. If you wanted to work you could. It may not have been the job you wanted, but you could find work. Janitoring at the college for $1.80 an hour. Working at a dairy before daylight, in freezing weather for $2.00 an hour, or 12 to 14 hours days on a farm at harvest time for $25 a day.
But as all of you know, that’s not what it’s like today. Jobs are applied for on the web (something I really despise), instead of walking into a business and introducing yourself. Farm jobs hardly exist anymore because government policies supporting big ag. have forced the little guy out of business. (Only one of the many farms I worked on as a young man still exists.) Other government policies simply make it exceedingly difficult for business to survive today, so they cut labor in an attempt to remain in business.
I did not intend to get on an anti-government rant, so let me just say this. I’ve seen the changes over sixty years and nearly everything the government has done in the way of regulations, wars, and deficit spending has hurt small business and YOUR opportunities to make a life for yourselves in our great nation. The sad part is your generation does not have the benefit of having living through these changes. Without the understanding that comes with actually living them, many from your own generation unknowingly support the very people/policies that are killing the jobs in America. (See the quote at the end.)
Bold statement yes, but I have seen it in my own two sons, ages 28 and 25. The oldest son has a well paying job in engineering and has been a little out of touch with the struggles many of you are experiencing to find work, though I must say his understanding has increased many fold in the past year or so.
It is my second son who really opened my eyes and got me in touch with things. A college grad now living at home with a part time job at a greenhouse, he struggles to get on with his life. At the age of 25, just when life should really be opening up for him, he is a captive really and my heart goes out to him. How does a young man get married and support a family if he cannot pay for the basic necessities of running a household? How does a young man even learn, through experience, what it takes to run a household?
My eyes have been opened in another way too. Without any exaggeration, nearly everyone of our “Boomer” (I have come to dislike that term very much) friends has a son or a daughter living at home, wondering how to get on with their lives. It pulls at my heart strings.
I know it’s a difficult time for many of you, but in my heart I also know that God has raised up your generation for a reason. There will come a time when you will be called upon to set the course for our nation. Are today’s challenges meant to strengthen you? I have to believe so. Do not let difficult times come between you and the Lord like has happened to me at different times in my life. Inevitably I always came back to Him, but each time I lost a lot in the opportunity to trust and rely on Him when I choose not to draw near and grow my relationship with our Savior.
Trust in the Lord your God
LEGAL PLUNDER – “See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.”
Frederic Bastiat in his 1850 classic “The Law”
“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.”
All of these comments are lies. God just has determined that some people are going to be failures and will never be employed. The more “Christian” someone claims to be, the more contempt they have for someone who is out of work. I’ve been turned down for dozens of jobs over the last two years. If God wanted to use my talents, he would have pointed me toward a job that pays a living wage so I could have used my talents to spread his word. Instead, unrelenting failure and lies from people who claimed they would help.
Yikes, harsh words to say the least. Do you really think that God has destined you to be a failure? You don’t think he wants to put you somewhere? Better yet, you don’t think he’s there while you’re unemployed? I’m not saying God won’t thwart our job searches (he certainly thwarted mine), but it’s not because he wants us to fail. He wants us to succeed, even if we can’t believe it at the time. And you say Christians have had contempt for you being unemployed and lying when they say they’ll help. How do you mean? If you like, you can email me at email@example.com (link on contact page if I spelled it wrong) and talk it out. I don’t know what Christians you’ve seen in the past, but here’s one who wants to listen. Much love, thanks for the honest comment.
I know you posted this comment 2 years ago, but I’d like to know how things are going for you now. I totally get how you feel, because I feel like I’m in the same boat you were in when you posted this comment. I know what’s like to know you have talents, but they don’t get many opportunities to shine. 😦 And meanwhile you feel like you’re misunderstood. One thing that would help is surrounding yourself with people who are supportive and can empathize, and who can also challenge you in the right direction (They’re willing to give you constructive feedback on resumes, interview practice, strategies, etc). And think about what strengths you have, and think of creative ways to showcase them. Wishing you the best!
I know this is an older entry, but it’s quite helpful in putting things into perspective. I graduated from my master’s back in May 2014 and am still looking for real work. It doesn’t help that I’m quite lethargic, and constantly tired, and don’t get enough sunlight. And my dad regularly asks me, “How come you don’t have a job yet? It’s a big mystery why you can’t find a job!” It’s so discouraging. And I’m almost completely on my own. Is job-searching supposed to feel so isolating? I do have an online job search buddy, but it’d be ideal if I had a job search buddy who lived near me and looking in the same/a similar field as I am.
You said that you applied to 2 jobs a day on average. Calculating the number of jobs I applied to so far this year (from 1/1/2015 to 3/18/2015), I applied to 29. Which averages to about 2-3 jobs a week. LOL the number of jobs I apply to in a week is how many I should apply to in a day. No wonder. But at home, with all this unstructured time, it’s SOO easy to get distracted and watch that extra video. I simply don’t like the process of writing cover letters and applying for jobs. I also don’t enjoy practicing for interviews. I really want to figure out a way to hate this process less.
I did get to do a bit of tutoring. But that’s pretty much it.
I often wonder if God tries to punish me, or if He’s trying to withhold things from me.
If you don’t mind, and if it won’t take up too much of your time, is it all right if I email you?
I’d be happy for you to email me and chat this out with you. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to talking with you, and I hope I can help.
I too found this post. I already suffer from major depressive disorder and general anxiety (a little over 10 years), and being umemployed has made things even more difficult. It takes hours for me to leave my room. I rarely see people. It has been the hardest three months of my life. I’ve applied to so many jobs that I’ve lost count. I have also felt anger towards God about giving me a talent that doesn’t pay (I like to write). I’ve struggled so much, and I feel that God is so far away. I’m hurting, but no one else seems to understand just how bad off I am. A lot of people undermine my depression as a phase and something I can talk myself out of. I don’t know what else to do. I feel like I’m at the end of my rope. I don’t know why I even commented. I don’t even know what to say at this point. I’ve just lost almost every ounce of hope I had. I just keep praying for something good to happen that will happen so that I can see that life is worth living, but nothing has happened. I’ve struggled with thoughts of God desiring for me to suffer for the rest of my life (until I give up). I just don’t know what to do anymore. My disorder makes things much harder for me.
First of all, thank you for commenting and sharing your story. It sounds rough and that sucks. I won’t say I’m in the exact same boat, but I have suffered from depression, even suicidal thoughts. And that was WITH a job. I’d say number 3 still stands: clinging to God is of the utmost importance and everything in life tries to interfere with that. However, if you’d like to talk more, I always open myself to people. My email is email@example.com.
I’ve been unemployed for about 8 years now.
Oof, that’s rough. I can’t fathom why, but all I can say is cling to God. He has a lot more ways of taking care of people than just regular work.
A friend of mine was in circumstances where he had to get really creative with employment. Consequently, he ended up working as a trailer checker for the movies and a merchandise stocker for local stores. The money isn’t great and the jobs may not be available everywhere, but it’s still better than nothing, if only to bring in a little cash while keeping your mind and body busy. I can provide links if that’s okay with Michael.
Links are fine as long as it’s legit. I’ll mediate once they appear.
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Thank you so much for this post. It is very encouraging.