Establish | Unemployment: Trusting God in Seasons of Waiting
Over the last eighteen months I have been unemployed twice and had three different jobs. I entered 2016 not knowing how God wanted to use me and not knowing which sector of the job market to enter. The first period of unemployment lasted six weeks, at the end of which I took a job in the events industry, leaving this just over three months later. The second period of unemployment lasted two months until the interview, with another month’s ait before starting the new job as a church intern. This summer I have moved jobs once again, this time into a more permanent (I pray!) position. I firmly believe that while it was me editing my CV, me talking in the interviews and me giving my notice, God had His hand over my path and the final outcome.
Whatever is going on in our lives, it is vitally important to remember firstly that we are children of the living God. Our relationship with God is the most important thing in the world! Psalm 31 starts with praising God and the psalmist being secure in his relationship with God: “In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge” v 1a; “Since You are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of Your name lead and guide me” v 3.
No matter what is happening with our finances, friendships, career, and family, God is constant and loving. We need to be feeding this relationship through Bible study, prayer, worship, going to church, and meeting and praying with Christian friends.
The psalmist says, “Into Your hands I commit my spirit” v 5a and I wish that were my first reaction, but it’s often not. When it seems that everything around us is in flux or we can’t see our next steps, it can be difficult to maintain regular habits. I know that when I have felt shaken by not knowing what is coming, I have taken refuge in chocolate and wine, which (while being delicious!) did not help me keep my equilibrium. While we are waiting for a job or opportunity and committing ourselves to the Lord, it is helpful to keep a routine for exercise, healthy eating, meeting up with friends and family.
In the middle of this psalm, the writer suddenly lays his worries and fears at God’s feet: “Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress” v 9a. I had so many times when I cried out to the Lord in distress, when I wanted to leave my job, when I didn’t know which jobs to apply for, when I couldn’t see the path forward and needed help to trust God. Romans 8:6 says that “the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” and there were times that I was on the floor, crying out to God. (I believe it’s important to be honest in prayer. God knows everything anyway!) And He answered me, through words of Scripture and through giving me peace and joy. It can be hard to see that this is only temporary but let me encourage you that it can be only days between submitting your application and getting an offer of employment. If you can’t see the end, do ask friends to pray and put on some worship songs.
The psalmist then reminds himself that he trusts God and that He is sovereign: “But I trust in You, O LORD; I say ‘You are my God’. My times are in Your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me” vv 14-15. What do we do if we think we might have chosen the wrong job or if we’re not sure which one to take? I would suggest two things. Firstly, any form of employment is a good thing: you can be a witness to colleagues and be the light of Christ in that environment; you can use your money to support the church and yourself; you get a routine and to socialise. Secondly, I believe that God can correct our path. With me over the past few years, He had shut down the legal profession and working in events and allowed me to work with children and music (both of which I love). I have seen with other people how He has guided their career through promotions and other options.
The psalmist then seems to return to his previous state of mind and praises God again: “How great is Your goodness” v 19a. He remembers God’s faithfulness, “praise be to the LORD, for He showed His wonderful love to me when I was in a besieged city. In my alarm I said, ‘I am cut off from Your sight!’ Yet You heard my cry for mercy when I called to You for help” vv 21-22. I love that the psalmist seems to have panicked and assumed the worst before God saved him. It reminds me that He knows what we are like and what we need. I think this also shows how helpful it is to share our testimonies of how God has answered prayer to encourage others in their journey with Him. If you don’t have a recent example of God answering your prayers, do ask a friend to share theirs.
When Jesus talks about us worrying about the future, He says, “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things [that you need] will be given to you as well” (Matt 6:33).
If we are prioritising our relationship with God and being obedient to Him, I believe that God will guide our feet to the right path – which, incidentally, may not be anything like what we planned for ourselves!
Elaine lives in London and has recently started working for St Mark's Battersea Rise at their Children's Pastor. The last five years since she graduated have been a whirlwind, including three career changes, time out travelling and entering children's ministry. Having recently completed a marathon (for fun!), she is trying to remember how to swim so that she can do a triathlon soon!