WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW ABOUT JOB LOSS
Here's what job fairs and career counselors forget to tell you.
by Sherri Langton
December 1988: my last full month of employment at a large
downtown Denver bank. A layoff wiped scores of employees' names
off the bank's payroll, and mine was one of them. But I had a
plan: Update my resume, land some interviews, and find a job I
really wanted. Prepared to hit the streets and find work, I
hummed the tune "I'm living by faith and feel no alarm."
But in time I did feel alarm - and other things besides, like
discouragement, loneliness, and depression. No wonder: Severance
pay and unemployment checks covered my bills but weren't
replenished by a paycheck. Businesses ready to hire turned me
away or didn't return my calls.
I berated myself. Faith alone should get me through this job
famine, right? I should be stronger, sure of God's goodness to
deliver. But some days I wondered if He cared or even knew what
was going on.
That was twenty years ago. Today from my desk at the Bible
Advocate Press, I look back on that time and thank God for His
deliverance to this place of "rich fulfillment" (Psalm 66:12).
And my heart goes out to the millions of unemployed in the fire
and water of deep recession.
So does Gary Hansen's. Last December Gary started "Inspired
Calling," a career coaching organization that helps people in job
transition. Based on his personal and professional experience,
Gary teaches what those in layoff have learned but aren't
hearing: that a job loss is more than tightening the budget and
churning out resumes; it means dealing with emotional, spiritual,
and relational complexities as well.
First, the discouragement, loneliness, and depression I felt
are just a few of many negative reactions to a layoff. None of
them signal an absence of faith; rather, they reflect what it
means to be human, to be "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm
139:14). Many people spend significant time cycling through
shock, denial, anger, and blame after a layoff. This is because
losing a job is an immense change. It ranks third on the grief
scale, behind the death of a family member and divorce.
Gary learned this firsthand. This time last year he served
as human resources director and chief of staff at a large
Christian ministry. A change in leadership handed Gary his own
pink slip last September. Fourteen years of fulfilling work
abruptly ended, and Gary found himself spinning in a whirlpool of
unfamiliar emotions. "For a few days, I was in shock and denial.
Is this really happening to me? Once I realized that, yeah, the
decision's been made and everyone's moving on, then blame and
anger set in. Did I do something wrong? Did somebody else?"
Fear and insecurity also rank as major emotions in job loss.
They start us on the treadmill of "What ifs?" Every day we run
through an exhausting routine: "What if we lose the car or house?
What if we have to cash in our IRA? What if we spend all our
The longer the time without work, the harder the emotional
workout. And the more other areas of our lives are affected, like
sleep, eating, health - even relationship with God.
Questioning the Almighty in times of loss is as old as Job.
Who wouldn't wonder about a God who had once provided everything
and then, in one breath, blew it all away? His silence to our
prayers for work only adds to the pain of the pink slip. Job
voiced what many feel:
"Oh, that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come to His
seat! ... Look, I go forward, but He is not there, and backward,
but I cannot perceive Him; when He works on the left hand, I
cannot behold Him; when He turns to the right hand, I cannot see
Him" (23:3,8,9). Indeed, at times this is a God beyond figuring
out. But even in the midst of frustration, Job challenged his own
"But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall
come forth as gold" (v.10).
God always knows the way of His people. He engineered
Israel's escape from Egypt. In fact, Gary suggests that when you
think layoff, think Red Sea. While God may seem removed, He is
invisibly overseeing your passage to the other side. Trusting Him
in job loss, then, isn't a sprint to the far shore but a
grueling, tedious walk of faith.
Gary feels those in job loss need to be reminded of this
sweeping Old Testament event. He's even made it part of "Inspired
Calling's" curriculum, based on Robert J. Morgan's thin volume
"The Red Sea Rules" (Thomas Nelson). The book's premise: The God
who led you in will lead you out.
Not admitting to such emotional and spiritual struggles in
job loss risks greater problems in other areas. Gary explains,
"I know people who have said, 'Oh, I'm fine, I'm fine. I'm just
moving on. Losing my job is no big deal.' But those emotions tend
to creep back into your thinking at very unpredictable times.
When people have lost a job and have anger they haven't
dealt with, it can creep back into their marriage and into
stressful situations with their kids. They tend to overreact."
Strength in numbers
How, then, can an unemployed person work through these
issues? Not by himself, Gary says. While God is our "very present
help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1), He also uses fellow believers for
support. "Two are better than one," the teacher writes in
Ecclesiastes 4:9 - not just for a greater return of labor but
also for survival through tough times:
"If they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who
is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up" (v.
A jobless person may need to take the first step by telling
others what he's going through. "It's very uncomfortable to tell
somebody you just lost your job," Gary admits. "But if you can
start talking about it with your close friends or family, then
the sting, goes away a little and you can get past the whole
self-esteem issue. You can begin to talk about help."
That help, Gary feels, comes through deeper connections:
prayer partners. "Start with people you know and trust; ask them
to start praying for you," Gary suggests. "Ask them to call I you
once or twice a week to see how you're doing, and tell them how
you're feeling. [Doing this] promotes healing. It's like putting
salve on the wound."
Going it alone in a layoff isn't just unhealthy; it's
dangerous. Gary believes that isolation after a layoff is "the
Devil's playground." You can combat his lies by fixing your
thoughts on what is true, honorable, and right (Philippians 4:8).
"Satan lives in a world of half-truth," Gary explains. "He's
going to tell you just enough so you'll think about what he's
planting in your mind, but he's twisted it for his own purpose to
cause a negative result in your thinking.
"[Satan's half-truths] could be something about your wife and her
attitude toward you or about a job you applied for. Maybe it's a
job that would involve moving, and Satan will plant lies about
whether it would be a good idea to move or not, when it might be
a wise move for your career."
Prayer partners are the weapons to help you combat these
half-truths. Gary says, "When you bring prayer partners into your
life, you can tell them about what your thought life has been.
You say, 'I'm feeling awfully discouraged. I just don't feel like
I've got a lot of skills or I'm too old or I'm overweight' - a
hundred different things. Your friends can challenge those lies
and help turn your thoughts from negative things to the blessings
God is giving you, and remind you of the positive things you can
do with your life."
Much about job loss has changed since my out-of-work days in
1989. Looking for employment is mostly high tech now. Sites like
"LinkedIn" help put your best foot forward to recruiters. Even
Twitter may soon be harnessed by those looking for work. Other
impacts of joblessness - emotional, spiritual, and relational -
have not changed and never will.
Neither will God. No matter how deep the recession or how
high the unemployment rate, He retains His power and plan
(Ephesians 3:20; Jeremiah 29:11). He still watches over His
people, guiding them toward deliverance in His time and way.
The Other Victims
Jenny Hanahan (see "My Journey," p.12) offers these insights on
job loss from a spouse's point of view:
"People tend to forget that the supporting spouse doesn't go off
to the Bahamas while the other goes through a layoff. It's just
as much, if not more, stress on the supporting spouse who isn't
looked at by others as having sacrificed anything. The supporting
spouse has to keep the others spirits up as well. The loss of
income to the family is a loss to everyone and turns all their
lives and credit upside down. That is a sacrifice of both husband
and wife, or of the whole family.
"Don't treat the supporting spouse and the family as though they
are observers of the loss. They are participants.
"When two people love and respect each other, what affects one,
affects the other. If a family is involved, others need to
understand that the whole bunch is experiencing loss and stress."
- Sherri Langton
How the Church Can Help
Gary Hansen feels that the local church is the best place to
assist those going through job loss. "Inspired Calling's"
six-hour sessions, in fact, are presented at churches. Also, Gary
and one of his team members, AL Hodges, have started support
groups for the unemployed in their local congregations. Once a
week they meet for prayer, review "The Red Sea Rules," and work
on skillsbuilding. Since mid-December, six people in Gary's group
have found jobs. Contact Gary at "Inspired Calling"
(www.inspiredcalling.com) for ideas on what you can do in your
Besides this, Gary urges the unemployed to network with those in
their congregations who may know of job openings. If they lack
technological skills in setting up profiles on the business site
LinkedIn, they can seek those in their congregations who do know
and can help. To learn more about technology and the changing
face of job search, visit www.cog7.org/BA.
- Sherri Langton
From "The Bible Advocate" - July/August 2009 - a publication of
the Church of God, Seventh Day, Denver, CO. USA
To be continued with "Work for the Unemployed"