I have had the good fortune during my career to meet countless men and women in the business world. They come from all parts of the country and cover most professions. Prominent among these good people are those who are unemployed, underemployed or unhappy with their jobs. Each of these represents a type of crisis which can have a devastating financial, emotional and spiritual impact on the person and their families.
We often think about employment issues through the prism of money. Can I pay the mortgage? Do I have enough saved for retirement? Can we afford to buy groceries? These financial worries, coupled with diminished self-worth, can have a devastating effect on our emotional state. Our friends and loved ones are affected as they feed off the negative energy we may exhibit when we are around them.
But, there is a spiritual impact as well.
When we are experiencing success in business and our personal lives are flourishing, do we think about putting Christ first in our lives? Is submitting to His will top of mind? Do we even thank Him? Before answering this question, consider another perspective. How do we view Jesus when times are tough? We may have lost our job, be struggling with our current job or be going through serious financial problems. How do you think we would view Jesus now?
Many of the professionals in my network struggling with employment issues have shared with me that they have turned to our Lord for help in these tough times when they were at their weakest moments. They turn to Him when they used to rely only on themselves. We often go to Jesus when we are in crisis and ask Him for help and strength. Crisis can be a helpful catalyst to truly and unreservedly surrender to His will and any means to achieve that end is worthwhile. But we should not wait until our backs are against the wall to pray the words, “I am no longer in charge Jesus; please lead me.”
It is gratifying to see anyone experience this surrender to Christ and ask for help, whatever the reason, when they “wake up” and recognize something is missing in their lives. An employment crisis often becomes the necessary spark to develop a rich prayer life and genuine pursuit of a deeper faith.
I can recall one man, a Catholic father and husband with three great kids, whose unexpected job loss was a time of profound lessons and one of the greatest blessings of his life. He used the transition period to reconnect with his wife and children, downsize their lifestyle and most importantly, become more devoted to the practice of our Catholic faith. Eventually, he found a new job which required minimum travel for the first time in his career and the freedom to become more active in his parish and family activities. He can often be found in his parish chapel, on his knees in prayer. It is apparent that he has his priorities in order for possibly the first time in his adult life.
Here are four common traits I see in those who have grown spiritually because of employment/job challenges:
- Humility, not humiliation. Rather than perceive their employment challenges as humiliating experiences, many have instead been humbled and put their pride aside to trustingly accept what God has in store for them.
- Prayer, not pity. Instead of feeling sorry for themselves, they have learned to give up their burdens in prayer to Jesus and seek the intercession of the Blessed Mother and the Saints.
- Detachment, not false idols. They learn to downsize their lives and rid themselves of their attachments to worldly things which are not important. They keenly recognize the false idols in their old lives which kept them from Christ and work diligently at eliminating them.
- Priorities, not a balancing act. They have their priorities in order with God first, family second and work third instead of the ineffective balancing act of their old lives with God and family almost always losing out to work.
Job loss, underemployment or job dissatisfaction will affect most of us at some point in our lives. How will we respond? What will we do differently? Will we use it as an opportunity to course-correct? Will it be the wake up call we need to focus on our heavenly home and not this world? Most importantly, must we wait for an employment crisis to bring us to our knees in prayer and a closer walk with Jesus?
“The future starts today, not tomorrow.”
Pope St. John Paul II
As we approach Labor Day, let’s keep in our thoughts and prayers the millions of unemployed and underemployed in our country. Let’s ask for the intercession of St. Joseph, Patron Saint of Workers, for all of these good people that they may find gainful employment to support themselves and their families.