Losing your job stinks. Getting fired, laid off, or going bankrupt – the form it takes doesn’t matter. It feels terrible.
Uncertainty and shame sometimes go hand in hand with unemployment. People who lose their jobs are sometimes unwilling to tell others. They are often unwilling to ask for help. What’s more, sometimes the help they get isn’t really helpful.
Chances are you know someone who needs help. According to the June 2016 employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 7.8 million people are currently unemployed in the U.S. That’s about 5 percent of the workforce.
In 2009, during the Great Recession, unemployment peaked at about 10 percent, affecting nearly 16 million Americans.
That’s a lot of people! What can we, as Christians, do to help friends and loved ones who have lost their jobs? Here are four practical actions to take.
Provide Real, Active Help
When we learn someone is looking for a job, we often drop names on them: “Oh, you should talk with John Smith and Jane Jones. I think their companies are hiring.” Then, we walk away feeling like we’ve helped, but we really haven’t.
Just dropping names leaves our unemployed friends on their own to figure out how to contact John and Jane, explain their unemployment situation, and then ask for help finding a job.
Real, active help goes beyond dropping names. We should call John and Jane ourselves: “Hey Jane, my friend is looking for a job and is interested in your company. He is someone I really respect and I think he’d be a great fit. Would you mind if I connect the two of you by email?”
That is real help. If you are in a position to hire or create jobs in your organization, why not go one step further? Use the position God has given you to create opportunities for others and help them flourish.
In seeking to really, truly help, our unemployed friends, let’s love in word and deed (1 John 3:18). Let’s do things that will actually help them get jobs, and not just the things that make us feel better.
Offer Intentional Encouragement
The uncertainty that accompanies unemployment sometimes leads to fear and anxiety. Can we pay the bills? When will I find a new job? Will we have to move? What impact will this have on my family?
In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, the Apostle Paul exhorts us to encourage one another and build each other up. Let’s be intentional about this with those facing unemployment. Let’s seek them out in the way we would like to be pursued if we were in the same situation.
You might find they are angry with God and man for their situation. They may be cynical or down on themselves. They may be having trouble following Paul’s charge to rejoice in all things (Phil. 4:4).
Be gentle and wise with your counsel. Let them tell their stories and talk about their concerns (James 1:19). Be careful not to offer trite, Christian-ese platitudes. At the same time, don’t be afraid to encourage them with songs, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19).
Be Present in Their Lives
Losing a job can be humiliating. The process of networking, telling the story over and over, sending resumes to distant business contacts – these are a constant reminder that you don’t have a job. Talking with close friends and family about job leads (often the best approach to finding a new job) can be particularly difficult.
It’s pretty easy for job hunters to escape to the relative safety and anonymity of their homes and apartments. Unemployment can quickly become a lonely existence as people retreat from their normal gatherings with friends and family.
It’s on us, the employed, to seek and show hospitality to the unemployed. In a sense, this is Paul’s charge to us – to use our freedom to love and serve others (Gal. 5:13).
Stay in touch with your unemployed friends. Make an extra effort to visit them. Invite them out to gatherings. Let them know you want them to be there. You might need to be a little more persistent than usual.
Romans 8 reminds us that we are not despised servants of the King. We are servants, but also adopted children. The promise of inheritance is ours.
As sons and daughters of the King of Glory, we can boldly approach his throne (Heb. 4:16). He cares deeply about us and our lives. He hears our prayers.
Let’s ask God to provide jobs for our friends, so they might glorify him with the work of their hands. Let’s ask him to provide them with income so that they might provide for their families. Let’s ask for them to have opportunities to serve God by serving others with all that he has created them to do.
Let’s not hesitate, either. Pray with urgency and confidence. Pray continually (1 Thess. 5:17).
In each of these things – active help, encouragement, presence, and prayer – the burden is on us to make the first step. It’s on us to seek out our unemployed friends and love them in word and deed.
Let’s get after it! If you have other ideas about providing real, active help to the unemployed, we’d love to hear them.