Have you ever faced unexpected unemployment? If not, it’s likely you know someone who has. 

Being out of a job may be precipitated by broader economic circumstances or by a lack of productivity and workplace fit. We may find ourselves out of work because we resigned, were terminated, or received a pink slip due to company job reduction.

However unemployment strikes, it has an immediate impact on our emotional and financial wellbeing. Our work is often closely tied to our sense of self-worth, and when our work disappears we can feel a great deal of worthlessness. Fear can rob us of a good night’s sleep. We also can find ourselves in an energy-zapping black hole of bitterness and discouragement. We may even blame God for what has happened to us.

When we find ourselves unemployed, how do we make the most of it?

Five Steps Forward

While looking back and assessing what we can learn from our previous job experiences may be helpful, our primary energy should be focused on wisely navigating the road ahead. We can have confidence that a sovereign God is in control of our lives and circumstances and that he will guide and provide for us as we walk in faith. Writing to believers in Rome, Paul reminds them of God’s steadfast love and offers a bedrock promise on which to securely anchor their lives: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28).

Trusting God and his promises, we can take positive steps in moving forward. Here are five.

1. Create a working-type schedule for your life.

In many cases, securing employment is a full-time job in itself, so structure your day and week accordingly. Manage your new workplace like you would in a full-time job context.

2. Get in a disciplined life rhythm.

This includes good eating, physical exercise, and spiritual formation. Though your finances may be limited, include some fun and recreation opportunities as well.

Additionally, look for opportunities to volunteer and help others. Perhaps give a few hours each week to volunteer at a local Habitat for Humanity project, assist the hungry and the homeless in your city, or serve your church in some way.

3. Don’t put off making the practical financial adjustments.

Make budget adjustments prudent with your reduction of income. In many cases this will mean a significant reduction in your spending, which will provide the opportunity to experience greater simplicity in your lifestyle. Avoid taking on credit card or consumer debt if at all possible.

4. Find a support group of others also looking for a job.

Not only will you be encouraged that you’re not the only one facing the challenges of unemployment, but new friendships will be forged and new job search ideas will emerge.

5. Get out of the house.

Meet with as many people as possible who may be able to open a door or expand your job-hunting network. Pray hard. Do your homework. Network extensively. Take initiative. Keep asking, keep knocking, keep seeking, and a door will open.

Prescription for Buoyant Hope

As a pastor I interact regularly with people facing unexpected unemployment. Though it’s a challenging time in life, I often see that it’s a positive time of spiritual and personal growth. Many times, new ideas and opportunities never before considered present themselves. A time of unemployment provides a unique time of personal evaluation and career exploration seldom possible while working a full-time job. God often allows one door to be closed in order to guide us to another open door better fit for our vocational calling.

Any extended period of unemployment can be stressful and challenging. It can easily lead to feelings of discouragement and isolation. What do we do when the embers of hope in our hearts seem to fade? Memorizing and meditating on God’s Word fans the flame of hope in our hearts. As a pastor, I often write out a prescription for those struggling to stay hopeful in the midst of bleak circumstances. On a pad of paper I write a text of Scripture to be memorized and meditated on three times a day. My primary prescription for a buoyant hope is Psalm 121. I commend it to you.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. 

    From where does my help come?

My help comes from the LORD, 

    who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved; 

    he who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, he who keeps Israel

    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper; 

    the LORD is your shade on your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day, 

    nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all evil; 

    he will keep your life.

The LORD will keep 

    your going out and your coming in 

    from this time forth and forevermore.


This excerpt is adapted from Tom Nelson’s Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work. Copyright © 2011. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.org.


Editors’ note: TBT (Throwback Thursday) with Every Square Inch: Reading the Classics is a weekly column that publishes some of the best writings on vocation from the past. Our hope is to introduce you to thoughtful literature that you may not have discovered yet and, as always, to encourage you to know and love Christ more in all spheres of your life.