By Kristin Schultz
At the time of this writing, February 2021, the unemployment rate in the United States is 6.7 percent—double the unemployment rate of February 2020. More than 10 million people are currently looking for work, and four million people have been searching for jobs for more than 27 weeks—that's more than six months.
Those who are unemployed struggle with a special set of challenges ranging from the obvious—financial—to the less obvious—diminished self-esteem. The solution to the problem of joblessness is, well, a job. But caring for people who have lost a job involves more than working your network or referring them to employment agencies (although you could and should do those things). To care for those who are unemployed, it’s important to meet their spiritual and emotional needs as well as their physical needs.
When someone loses their job, one of the first questions they may ask is, “Why?” They may even ask, “Why would God do this to me or let this happen to me?” They may wonder if God is punishing them for something. They may feel like God has abandoned them altogether.
These are natural questions and normal feelings. People often think if they do everything right or live with integrity or faithfully attend church that nothing bad will happen to them. When the pain and disappointment of our fallen world come calling, our faith can be shaken. The fact is that we live in a sinful world and despite our best efforts, we feel the effects of that sinful world. Disappointment, failure, illness, unemployment, underemployment, and injustice are all parts of our broken world.
When people who are unemployed question God and his presence, remind them of his faithfulness and share Scripture. Encourage people to look for ways that God is providing for them even in their current hardship.
A job provides more than income. Having a job gives a person a sense of purpose and worth, a sense of accomplishment, self-efficacy, self-esteem, a connection to a community, and a sense of providing for those they love. When someone loses their job, they lose not only a paycheck but also a sense of purpose, a reason to get up in the morning, and more.
Going to work—even virtually—connects people to a community of co-workers, clients, supervisors, direct reports, and more. Losing a job is almost like being kicked out of a community. Sure, people may stay in touch with their former co-workers, but eventually the company will hire different people or bring on new clients and the connections can slowly fade.
People who have lost their jobs may feel isolated at home, even if there are others living there. As their financial situation grows more dire, they may feel increased pressure from a spouse to just “find a job.” Children may be disappointed or even resentful that they cannot participate in sports or camps because money is too tight. Traditional support systems may start to break down as unemployment drags out.
If possible, family counseling should be considered to help all those affected to process their feelings so they can support one another. You might also suggest that parents engage with resources like the school counselor or school social worker for additional support or assistance.
One of the reasons we work is to provide for ourselves and those we love and to show generosity to those around us. Even those who are single may support parents or siblings or may be involved with local charities in addition to providing for themselves. Losing income means they can’t provide for themself or others like they used to. They may not be able to pay rent or the mortgage and must move in with family or friends. Not only is such a circumstance an extreme lifestyle change but it can also be emotionally devastating.
Those who have lost a job may suffer a loss of self-esteem if they don’t find another job quickly. They may begin to doubt their abilities. Some research shows that only 13 percent of applicants to a position get an interview. That means that most job seekers will face much more rejection than they will experience success.
Losing a job is more than losing an income. Losing a job often includes losing a sense of purpose, community, support, and self-esteem. Caring for someone who has lost their job requires understanding or being aware of all the ways—emotional and spiritual—they may be hurting during this time. God provides for his children because he loves us. He even provided a way for a world broken by sin to be reconciled to him through Jesus.
As you walk with your people who are struggling with unemployment, trust that God will provide you with the words and the tools to help and encourage those to whom you’ve been called.
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