At Work

Where Is God When I’ve Been Fired?

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I have been reading William Morris’ book, Where Is God at Work? since last August. His fresh approach aligns so well with my own view on the theology of work, which can be summarized in the term “Immanuel labor.” Morris highlights the many ways that God’s presence is connected with our work in a variety of challenging situations. In chapter 10, he discusses the subject of being fired.

A Career Low Point

Morris begins with recounting a talk he gave where he highlighted his work history. He had marked one of the entries with a “jagged black line.” He then explained to his listeners what he called “the low point of my professional life” where “my career at that firm was effectively at an end.” He said that he did not see it coming, although he had not been enjoying himself there.

As I read his account, I could identify with what he was saying. I immediately recalled my own experience when I was fired as a church youth ministry director in July of 1985. This was also a low point for me. It was one that I did not see coming, although I probably should have.

He acknowledges that it was “a horrible time and it changed me in ways that I’m still working out today.” However, he also recognized that “it was one of the best things that ever happened to me professionally—without a shadow of a doubt.” I can echo his assessment.  (See my reflection on how God worked all things out for good through my own job loss in an article on failure that I wrote for the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work blog.)

As someone who has gone through this difficult experience himself, Morris has deep compassion for those who have been let go. He knows that “nothing can blunt the immediate pain for the recipient . . . it is as simple and as fundamental as being told that you are not wanted.”

Morris points out that there can be some “godly potential” for both the workplace and the individual with regards to a situation where someone probably should be fired. He observes that when a person is in a job that is beyond their capabilities, this can become an opportunity to be “honest about why that person doesn’t have the skill sets needed, but also what skills they do have and in what jobs those skills might work.”  Morris continues, “honesty and empathy in this process can turn it from being something unremittingly awful into something which, while difficult, holds some potential for change, for growth.”

Trusting God When You Can’t Understand

Morris also brings a biblical view to the subject of being fired. He notes that Job suffered the loss of everything, which made him question God. Job asks God, “Why me?” God does not seem to answer Job’s question directly. However, God implies that because he is God, he knows what he is doing. Job just needs to continue to trust him. Morris indicates, “Job does trust, and eventually all is made right again.”

At the end of the chapter, Morris brings us back to his story about the talk he gave. He drew the audience’s attention to the next item on his resume, which was circled in blue. This signified “a job that had allowed me to recoup and recover.” He pointed out that it was a job perceived by others as a “lower status job.” And yet, “it was one of the best things I ever did. It laid the foundation for everything else that I’ve been able to do since.” It built his confidence. Morris concludes that “God occasionally intervenes in ways we cannot understand and that may even seem painful at the time, but that turn out for the best.”

Once again, I could identify with his gratitude-filled conclusion. I joined the Army about six months after I had been fired from my youth ministry position. Ironically, God used this new beginning to bring healing and recovery to my soul, despite the fact that many (including myself) saw this as a step backwards. It was also clearly the best thing that I could have done, bringing me to where I am now, over thirty-three years later. (Read more about my vocation in military service here and here.)

There are no easy answers when a person loses their job. However, knowing and trusting that God will provide for his children and that he will work all things out for good can give us hope, peace, and rest as we navigate the rough waters ahead. After we land in a place of refuge and recovery, we will be able to point others to the God who lifted up our heads during our struggle. We can comfort those who struggle with the same comfort that God gave to us (See 2 Cor. 1:3-4.).

Editor’s note: Learn more about God’s big-picture plan to help you make sense of life’s ups and downs in All Things New: Rediscovering the Four-Chapter Gospel.

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