How do I survive unemployment? It's been two years since I lost my job. After exhausting every possibility in my search for work, I no longer have any hope that my situation will ever change. My wife has gone back to work, but her income isn't enough to cover our bills even though we've trimmed expenses to the bare bone. To say I'm discouraged is a huge understatement. I actually feel like a complete loser. My wife tries to encourage me, but I don't think she understands how this experience has devastated and demoralized me. Where can I turn for help?
Before offering any suggestions, we want to commend you on the courageous efforts you're already making to meet the practical challenges of unemployment. You've been diligent to look for a new position. You're taking steps to balance the budget. You're cutting expenses to match your lowered income. That's good. It's obvious that you have a realistic head on your shoulders and a strong sense of accountability and responsibility. You also understand what it means to be committed to your family. Qualities like this will stand you in good stead in any crisis.
That leads to our first recommendation. You can take a giant step in the right direction by ridding yourself of the notion that you're a "complete loser." That idea is clearly groundless. It's also working against you. So recognize it for what it is – an attack from the Accuser – and dump it as fast as you can. Then rebuild your self-image on the foundation of the courage and resolve you've been demonstrating over the past couple of years. Remember, the Lord is in charge and He has a plan for your life. If in His sovereign wisdom He has determined that this is a time for you not to work, accept it as a gift from His hand. Turn it into an opportunity to concentrate on other things.
Don't misunderstand. We're not trying to make light of the hardships you're facing. It's easy for us to say, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." But we know very well that you're in the middle of a truly awful situation right now. Job loss can be a serious blow to an individual's sense of identity. This is especially true for men, who tend to define themselves in terms of their work. That's not to mention the financial anxieties that come with the package. All of this can place a serious strain on a marriage. It weighs heavily on both partners. But it's especially hard on the one who feels most responsible to "bring home the bacon."
A word about your wife before we go any further. She sounds like a remarkable woman. Instead of blaming, berating, or browbeating, she's helping you carry the burden. Not only is she working and contributing to the family's financial needs. She's also coming alongside you with words of encouragement. That's something to be grateful for. A man in your position has no greater asset than the support of a faithful woman. You may be right when you say that she doesn't fully understand what you're going through. But then how can she? She's never been inside your mind or the mind of any other male of the species. That doesn't change the fact that she loves you and is obviously committed to stand beside you through thick and thin.
But you probably already know all this. What you really need from us are some practical tips. You want to know what you can do to survive when unemployment hits your household and rattles your marriage. We have several thoughts for you.
First, don't give up on your attempts to get back into job market. Yes, it's discouraging. But you need to have the attitude that finding work is now your full-time occupation. Try to land a position you can get enthused about. If that's not available take anything that will provide your family with a living wage. You can work on longer-term career goals on the side.
Second, though moving away from your support system may sound scary, don't rule out the possibility of relocating. Here again, the principle is to be humble, diligent, and disciplined enough to take whatever you can get until something better presents itself. If you have to move, you can look at it as a fresh start. It will give you and your wife an opportunity to nurture your couple relationship away from the demands of family and friends.
Third, get moving, keep active, and stay productive. Work on the honey-do list. Volunteer at church or in the community (volunteering can lead to job opportunities). Take classes at the community college. Do anything rather than sit on the couch. You may also want to think about getting some career counseling. You might end up discovering that you're perfectly suited for a job you never thought you'd be able to do. Whatever you do, it's important to get out of the house and change your surroundings on a regular basis. Do this even if it means nothing more than taking a walk or spending a morning at the coffee shop. Idleness, isolation, tedium, and the feeling of being trapped inside four walls will only feed depression.
One last suggestion. Through it all, try to hold on to hope. More to the point, remember that your hope is in the Lord and not in the expectation of someday landing a job. He has promised to be your Leader, Guide, Sustainer, and Provider in every situation. External circumstances can never change that. As the prophet Habakkuk expressed it,
Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls-
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer's feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.
If you think it might be helpful to discuss these ideas at greater length with a member of the Focus team, our staff counselors would consider it a privilege to speak with you over the phone. Contact our Counseling department for a free consultation. They'll be happy to assist you in any way they can.
If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.
The Measure of a Man
Crown Financial Ministries