If you want to talk about a situation that really puts you in touch with yourself and with God, try unemployment. As a married American male, this is a particularly trying circumstance.
However, unemployment has its benefits. If you can put yourself in the right frame of mind, joblessness can be a blessing. Allow me to enumerate and elaborate.
- Unemployment requires serious self-examination.
In order to get back out there in the job market, or to change careers, you’ve really got to get in tune with yourself and understand what it is that makes you tick and what your strengths and weaknesses are. Beyond that being unemployed will also force you to think about what it is you really want to do. How do you measure success?
- Unemployment affords you more time to spend alone.
When I was working a 9-to-5, I was with people all day. I’d go to work and there would be people there. I’d go home and my wife was there. The only alone time that I ever really had was in the car. This is not as much of a problem for the unemployed. While you may be out canvassing for a job, chances are you aren’t spending 8 hours per day on this venture. (If you are, then you are probably going insane.) Take advantage of the extra few hours you have each day. Read the Bible. Pray. Seek to understand who God is, who you are, and what your relationship to him should look like.
- Unemployment gives you an opportunity to reconsider what is important in life.
As of this post, I’ve been unemployed for 8 months. In those 8 months my wife and I have had to make some very difficult decisions about how we spend our money and what we do with our time. We’ve realized that what’s important is not how awesome our computer is or whether or not the iPod is functional — what’s important is spending time together. The great thing about spending time together is that it’s almost totally free! (Which means that we can do plenty of it.)
- Unemployment helps you to realize how truly blessed you are.
Maybe this isn’t the case for everyone, but this is how it’s worked for me. As the end of the month approaches (like right now), and I know rent is due, I’m always biting my nails as I look at the checkbook. Somehow God has sustained us. Somehow God has helped us find the means to stay current on all of our responsibilities. As Abraham told Isaac in Genesis 22: “The Lord will provide.”
- Unemployment gives you the opportunity to experience tough times with your spouse and come out ahead.
I’m not attempting to downplay the emotional toll that unemployment can take on a person or a couple. Nor am I saying that “trying times are the best!” However, unemployment has always forced my wife and I to have some very serious conversations about who we are and what we are doing. Sometimes these conversations go really well; sometimes not. At the end of each of those rough patches, I always feel like we’re stronger for it.
Because unemployment gives you the opportunity to experience God and community in so many different ways, I look at it as a spiritual practice. For those who have been unfortunate to find themselves unemployed during the current recession, tell me how you’ve capitalized on that added time to alter yourself or your relationship with God.
If you don’t take advantage of the situation, then you may end up looking like me in the photo to the right (click to enlarge). Ironically, I was very much employed at the time.
Christine Sine over at Godspace has an ongoing series where various folks have posted about different activities as spiritual practices. I suggest you head over there and check it out.