My husband and I recently survived thirty months of un/underemployment. It was by far the toughest season we have ever gone through in our nearly twenty years of marriage.
A fellow believer whose husband has been out of work for quite some time asked me the other day if I had any advice for them. I shared with her what I had learned but since this is an issue for so many people today, I thought it would be good to write a post about it.
From a practical standpoint:
1. Under no circumstances talk about money issues at night. Once the sun goes down, all talk of money is forbidden. Everyone is tired and everything looks worse and scarier at night. Save the financial discussions for the daylight hours.
2. Cut out all unnecessary expenses. This might seem obvious but we discovered that a lot of what we considered “needs” were actually “wants.” You can go without certain things for a season.
3. Check out thrift stores in your area. My friend Mary Ellen introduced me to the advantages to thrift store shopping. She always looked like a million bucks and when I complimented her on her outfit one day, she pointed to her top, pants, and cute shoes and said, “$5, $10, and $7.” She took me to her favorite thrift store and I was amazed to see tags still on much of the clothes! Lots of great stuff for very little cash.
4. Have lots of sex. It is God’s gift to you as a couple. It is fun, it is free, it keeps you connected to one another during a time when that is crucial, and it’s a major stress-reliever. Everybody wins.
5). Affirm your husband at every opportunity. Men need to know that their wives respect them. You didn’t marry a job, you married a man. In our culture, a man’s sense of worth is often determined by his job, so his opinion of himself takes a hit when he is without work. Let him know the things you appreciate about him and do it often.
6). Live one day at a time. It is so tempting to let your mind wander into tomorrow but resist the urge. Today is all you have. Don’t take it for granted. Your circumstances may not be ideal but we live in a fallen world. There will always be challenges. You cannot wait until your life is problem-free to start living or you will never live. Make the choice to live the life out of every day. That is not pie-in-the-sky advice. I did it and so can you.
From a spiritual standpoint:
1. Never lose sight of the fact that Jesus is in complete and total control…even when your life feels or looks out of control. This season has come with great purpose and intention. He has something to say to you. Listen.
2. As one of our friends told us early on: “Your job is not your provision. Your GOD is your Provision.” Never lose sight of that.
3. God promises…absolutely promises…that He will meet ALL your needs. Not some, not most…ALL. (Philippians 4:19).
4. Search your heart. (Ps. 139:23-24). Ask Him to reveal any blind spots you may have. Decide beforehand that you are going to agree with whatever God shows you. No blame-shifting, no excuses, no minimizing. Just cooperation, humility, and openness before the kind and compassionate God who loves you unconditionally and desires to heal and free you.
5. Live all of life with an open hand. God owns it all. (Ps. 24:1) We own nothing; we are merely stewards. This includes money, cars, homes, etc. He will do what is best for you. He is and always will be trustworthy. If He takes, it is because He has something better to give. It may not feel like it at the time but it is true. Your God is a Giver. (I Timothy 6:17; John 3:16; James 1:17).
6. Continue to tithe on whatever income you do have, even if it is just an unemployment check. We did this even though it looked insane on paper. But we learned that you can NEVER out-give God. Not ever. He will always abundantly provide when you put your money where your mouth is and obey Him. That is faith in action.
7. Do not lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6). You may look at your situation and think that all is hopeless and there is no way out. Don’t you believe it. He will always make a way. He has resources we know nothing about.
9. Realize that you have been given the gift of time with your spouse and your family. Do not take it for granted. It may not be an ideal situation but make the most of the time you have. Jobs, money, possessions and homes are not eternal; people are.
11. Wait expectantly, not passively. Your God is never inactive! “…This resurrection life you have received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike, ‘What’s next Papa?’ (Romans 8:15, The Message). “…Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your hearts be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.” (Ps. 27:14, Amplified version).
12. Pour out your heart to Jesus. Let Him know every single thing you are thinking and feeling. He can take it. He knows it all anyway. (Ps. 139:1-5). Bring the darkness out into His Light and let Him minister to you.
13. You don’t need more money. You need more of Jesus. He is enough. Always enough.
14. Live in an attitude of gratitude. Begin to count all of His many gifts to you, no matter how small. They are always there. Focus on what you HAVE, not on what you lack. Gratitude always makes room for joy.
15. This too shall pass. This season of unemployment will not last forever.
16. Your God WILL prove FAITHFUL to you. He will never fail you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)
17. Some books that I found helpful during that season:
When Life Is Hard by James MacDonald
The Perfect Love by Ruth Myers
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper
If God Is Good by Randy Alcorn
Streams In The Desert devotional
In our situation, we experienced His miraculous provision and full restoration. I will never get over His mercy and grace as long as I live. It was worth every tear because this situation gave me Jesus in a way I had never known Him before. I have been forever changed and marked by His radical, redemptive love.
Trust Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our Refuge. —Ps. 62:8