I’ve lost my job as a result of the coronavirus. I’m getting unemployment, so I am not worried about money. But I am running out of tasks to do around the house, and the hours of idleness are starting to wear me out. How can I glorify God in my work when I have no work to do?
I am so encouraged by your question. First, you are asking, “How can I glorify God?” This should be the top goal, the chief purpose, of the life of a believer. Whether we eat, drink, work, or play, we are called to do everything to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).
Additionally, the fact that idleness weighs heavily on you is a good thing! In a world of electronic devices, it is easy to dodge boredom and numb ourselves to the passage of time. But as Christians, we don’t want to become comfortable with idleness (1 Thess. 5:14). We want to make sure that our lives are productive and fruitful. You are pushing back against the sin of laziness, and this is a sign of the Holy Spirit working in your life.
At the same time, it seems you are facing some spiritual discouragement. You are starting to feel useless, like there is “no work to do.” I think about the times I’ve been prevented from working—the weeks on bedrest while pregnant, the years chasing business that didn’t materialize. I want you to take heart, because God has you right where he wants you. He is growing you through this experience.
In a world of electronic devices, it is easy to dodge boredom and numb ourselves to the passage of time. But as Christians, we don’t want to become comfortable with idleness.
Here are five thoughts for this strange time.
1. Trust God has work for you to do, even when you’re unemployed.
The fifth commandment instructs us to work (Ex. 20:9), and God promises to enable us to obey him. Remember that many fruitful endeavors do not involve a paycheck. Look for needs in your family, your church community, your neighborhood. If you don’t know what they are, make a few phone calls or write a few emails. Check out the programs and charities supported by your church. Reach out to your neighborhood school, nursing home, or community center. These organizations may look different during COVID, but they can likely point you to tangible needs.
2. Engage the spiritual disciplines—prayer, reading God’s Word, talking with other believers (a good use for those electronic devices).
Block out an hour or more for extended prayer. Pick a meaty passage of Scripture for meditation and memorization. Ask for recommendations on a Bible study, and get a couple friends to join you. By leaning into the ordinary means of grace, you are tuning your spiritual ears. This will help you discern God’s voice on how to spend your time.
3. Take time to dream.
Perhaps, in the frantic pace of pre-COVID life, you set aside some goals for personal enrichment. Maybe you want to start an exercise program, or pick up a hobby, or complete a home-improvement project. Maybe you have wanted—or needed—to read a certain book, but kept getting distracted. Now is a good time to take steps toward these goals. If your motivation needs a jumpstart, talk to a friend or two.
4. Resume self-supporting work as it becomes available.
From your letter, it appears God has blessed you through the unemployment safety net provided by government, so that you are not concerned about money at this time. I want to encourage you not to let these payments stop you from looking for paid work. The Bible teaches that financial pressure can be good for us, because it pushes us away from laziness and toward work (Prov. 16:26; 2 Thess. 3:10). Since you do not have this financial pressure, you may need extra vigilance not to become needlessly dependent on others.
5. Rest in God’s love for you.
Remember your value does not come from work, or from your outward productivity. True fruitfulness comes from abiding in Christ, experiencing his grace, and allowing it to flow through us. He is the vine; we are the branches (John 15:4). When things are slow, it’s tempting to manufacture activity to fill the void. A better alternative? Wait on the Lord (Ps. 130:5–6). Take your restlessness and feelings of emptiness to him.
When I was on bedrest, God was preparing me for the busy job of motherhood. And that stall in my professional career—painful as it was—forced me to my knees in prayer. Many years later, I can look back and wonder at how God answers on his own timeline. I trust he will do the same in your life.
TGC’s “Thorns & Thistles” column seeks to apply wisdom with practical advice about faith, work, and economics. If you have a question on how to think about and practice your work in a way that honors God, let us know at [email protected]