Friday, February 22, 2013

Dealing with Unemployment: A Lack of Patience

Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R79053 / CC-BY-SA
"Industrious Young Man Looking For Work"
"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."
-Galatians 5:16-24

Last week I dove into the topic of how to deal with an abundance of rejection while going through an extended time of unemployment. If you are sending out resumes and applying for jobs you are going to end up dealing with some level of rejection. In my experience most people don't like to be rejected. Dealing with rejection is a part of life but that doesn't mean that it is fun. And repeatedly getting rejected over a long period of time will start to wear down even the strongest and most resolute person.

It was easier to deal with the rejection early on but after a while I started to become less and less patient. As we can see in the passage that I quoted above, patience is one of the Fruits of the Spirit. But even beyond this and other Scripture passages we can see the virtue of patience. So for me to say that going through an extended period of unemployment is going to test your patience should be fairly obvious. I also don't want to spend a lot of time going over how to be patient. A quick Google search will give you more resources than you can shake a stick at. (What an odd saying.)

What I would like to cover is that a lack of patience can be a pretty good indicator of being under chronic stress. Consider some of the symptoms of chronic stress that are also manifestations of impatience:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability or anger
  • Angry outbursts
  • Muscle Tension

And while we should be patient being under the chronic stress of unemployment is going to affect even the most patient person. Chronic stress is a very serious problem and can lead to a number of very serious health problems. The Mayo Clinic has great resources for identifying stress sources and how to deal with chronic stress. I highly recommend that if you are dealing with unemployment that you look over their resources in order to become aware of the potential problems and possible solutions.

From a theological stand point, my lack of patience is often due to a lack of trust in God. I start to get anxious and lose patience during this time because I start to doubt that God is in control of the situation. My guess is that anyone going through a prolonged difficult situation has those same doubts. Just look at what happened to Peter when he got out of the boat to walk on water in Matthew 14:22-32. He started to focus on the waves and wind and started to doubt that Jesus would keep him safe. The same is true for those of us facing the waves and wind of life can very easily start to doubt that God will keep us safe.

Don't hear what I am not saying. I am not saying that trusting in God means that everything in life will be roses and puppy dogs. There are those who have immense faith and end up losing their homes, going hungry, face persecution or are even killed for their faith. But if we have faith that God will be faithful to us in an eternal sense then it becomes easier to patiently endure the hardships of this life.

Of course it is very easy to say, “Have more faith.”

Sometimes it isn't so easy to do.

One of the things that I shared in my last post is that it is essential that I continually remind myself that I have a wife that loves me and that I have a Savior in Jesus Christ that loves me. I have found that the more that I remind myself of God's eternal love and care for me the easier it is for me to be patient. I have also found it equally important to remain in God's Word. In my life there is a direct correlation between my reading the Bible and my ability to trust in God. So my encouragement for those that are going through a prolonged and chronically stressful situation is to read God's word and to dwell on God's love. You may not be able to remove yourself from the stressful situation or to shorten the time frame. The solution to a lack of patience isn't a shortened wait. Rather what we can do is change how we react in the situation and to keep our eyes on the eternal promises of God. When we do that we help improve our patience and our ability to endure what ever hardships that we may face in this world.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dealing with Unemployment: An Abundance of Rejection

Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R79053 / CC-BY-SA
"Industrious Young Man Looking For Work"

As I shared in my last post I have been out of school and without a paying job since July 1, 2011. That is a long time and I have discovered that being unemployed over an extended period of time has some serious challenges. My wife had the idea that it would be good for me to share some of those struggles and how we–as a couple–have navigated those issues. Today I want to deal with one of the first big issues that became clear.

Overall my wife and I expected this search process to be relatively short. But there were some early signs that this process would be a long one. One of the first few churches that I applied to was a small church in New England. Most of my church experience–both as staff and as an attendee–has been with small churches so I felt that I would be right at home. The average attendance for the church was about 80 people. Turns out they had between 300-400 people apply for the position. One of the next few churches I applied to had 200 people apply in a very short time. That is a lot of people. I know of churches that I have been involved with that would only get a few applicants. Part of the difference has to do with technology changes that allow churches and applicants to connect easier. And part of it has to do with the economic times. Regardless of the factors it became clear that I am just another fish swimming in a big pool of candidates. It's what we could call a buyer's (or employer's) market. There are less positions available than people wanting to fill those positions.

I need to pause and give a caveat here. I have been applying to more than just churches. I have been applying to para-church organizations, Christian businesses and organizations, and even secular businesses and organizations. I am going to share a few of my rejection stories that have come while dealing with this wide variety of organizations. Please do not take this as a commentary on individual churches, the overall church or any other organization. The only reason that I share any of these stories is to make a point of how dealing with rejection can be challenging.

Over the course of the last two years I have found myself at various points of the application and interview process. The most frequent response has been no response. Other times the response has been good with regular updates. Then there are those that have tried to keep people updated but I would have appreciated no response rather than the response that they gave. The best example of this is when I was essentially told, "We received 100 applicants and we narrowed it down to the top 25. Unfortunately you were not one of the finalists."

Why? Why would you put those numbers in? Did you even consider how that would sound? Being rejected is tough enough to deal with. Were you trying to crush me even further than just a simple no?

We're sorry but you could not even crack the top 25. Better luck next time.

Why not just say, "We have narrowed down the applicants and you were not one of the finalists."

Another good example is when I put together all of the information that the organization was requesting and sent it in. It took me a couple of days and amounted to 20 or 30 pages of writing. They had questionnaires they wanted filled out and essays that they wanted written. I sent them the information at 4 pm on a Wednesday afternoon and I received their rejection by 8pm that same night. The quick turn around made me really suspicious of whether or not they read all of what I sent them. A few weeks later I came across a posting for the same position that had an experience requirement that was not in the original posting.

Let me share one final example. The very first response that I received from an organization spoke about how good it was to speak to me and to get to know me better but that I just didn't fit what they were looking for. I am not sure who they spoke to but I am sure that it wasn't me.

I don't know that I have ever dealt with this much rejection before. And it can be tough to deal with. It messes with your confidence and it can be very frustrating. It is like being afloat in the midst of a storm. The waves keep crashing and pounding your ship. While it might hold together for a while, eventually something is going to give. First the things that are just setting on the deck start to get swept out to sea. Then things that are only loosely attached break off. Eventually serious damage can start to happen. Engines can get flooded and leave you without any drive. Structural pieces can get damaged and leave you bailing water. It can become a very difficult situation and lead to further issues. (I will cover some of the further issues that I dealt with in future posts.)

The two things that I struggle with as a direct result of this abundance of rejection is an overwhelming need for some sort of acceptance and the desire to start to give into the frustration of being rejected.

One of the great things that my wife has done for me is to keep encouraging me to continue on the current path. She has not wavered on the notion that we are heading in the right direction. And she has not demanded that I just find a job so that I have a job. We are sure that God has put us on this journey for a reason. The end point might not be exactly what we picture but there is a reason that I went to seminary and it wasn't just to end up doing what I was doing before I went to seminary. My wife through her encouragement really offset my frustration. It is because of her encouragement and positive attitude that I keep applying. She really expects that the next resume that I send out will be the one.

Her encouragement also served as a way to help me feel accepted. It is essential that I continually remind myself that I have a wife that loves me and that I have a Savior in Jesus Christ that loves me. I also have friends and family that continue to encourage me. This support system is essential in dealing with rejection. It can be easy to neglect your support system and is one of the pitfalls that I will cover in a later post.

The circumstances of why you (or someone you know) are unemployed may differ from mine. In this economy there are many who did not choose to change jobs or careers like I did. But the difficulty of dealing with the rejection that is guaranteed to come with an extended job search is going to be the same. The two bits of advice that I can give to those seeking a job is to keep pushing forward and to make sure that you have a good support system around you.

For those of you that are married to someone looking for a job be sure to remain encouraging and to show forms of acceptance toward your spouse. You are going to have the biggest and most important impact on your spouse.

For those of you that are friends with a job seeker make sure you reach out to that person. Simply being a friend during the storm can be a big help.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says:

"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him–a threefold cord is not quickly broken."

When we are down we really need others to help pick us up. That is true both when we physically fall and when we fall spiritually or emotionally. Do no underestimate the power of picking someone up when they are down. It is especially important when they are dealing with an abundance of rejection.


Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Weathering the Storm of Unemployment

Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R79053 / CC-BY-SA
"Industrious Young Man Looking For Work"

I have been out of school and without a paying job since July 1, 2011. For those slow at math that is 1 year (with a leap day) and 220 days or 586 days or 14,048 hours and 25 minutes...26 minutes.

That is a long time.

Now I realize that there are those that have been out of work longer than I have. There are those that are in more dire financial straits than my wife and I have been in. But it has been a significantly difficult time in my life. It would be my guess that it has been the second most difficult thing that I have endured. This time has tested my faith, patience, resolve and confidence just to name a few things. However, this is not in any way meant to be a "woe is me" post.

Rather this series of posts come from an idea that my wife had. We have been fortunate enough that God has provided her with a good job to support us. And while we count ourselves to be truly blessed that she is working we both really want our roles to be reversed. She is eagerly anticipating the day that she can retire from full-time work and I am eagerly anticipating the day that I am working full-time.

She has also been a great support in other ways as well during this time. Without her this would have been by far the worst two years of my life. Her idea was for me to share my struggles and how she has supported me so that other wives might get some insight in how to support their out of work husbands. My hope is to also share some insight for how those same husbands can support their working wives. I also hope that sharing my struggles and some of my pitfalls will also help people endure their struggles easier and to avoid those same pit falls.

Near the end of 2005 it had become clear to both me and my wife that I was extremely dissatisfied with working in the business world. After much discussion and prayer we decided that I should quit my job and return to seminary. So in the fall of 2006 I enrolled at Western Theological Seminary in their Distance Learning program in order to earn my Masters of Divinity with a graduation date of July 2011. Of course what we didn't know then was that 2006 would prove to be the peak of the housing market and the bubble was about to burst. Then economy started it's downward spiral. Even with these events I don't know that our decision for me to enter seminary would have changed. To add to the struggles my wife lost her job in 2009. Fortunately she received an excellent severance package and was later able to find another job. We can only thank God for his provision during this time.

In January of 2011 I started to do some preliminary job searching as my school schedule would allow. At this point, even with the condition of the economy, we both figured that I would find something by the fall of 2011. The fall of 2011 came and went. There were a few cues that probably should have indicated that this might be an extended search process but we were still pretty confident that something would come along in the early parts of 2012. The early parts of 2012 came and went. Then the late parts of 2012 came and went. Now it is February of 2013. And we figure something will come in the early parts of 2013.

Yes we are still confident that God will provide the right position for me when the right time comes. But I have to admit that keeping this confidence and weathering the storm has not always been that easy. Over the next few weeks I plan to share some of that storm. This storm has been a large part of why I needed to take a break from blogging. Right now I have a few topics that I am going to address and I may add more.

The initial topics that I am going to address are:

  • Dealing with an abundance of rejection;
  • A lack of patience;
  • The feeling of a lack of personal value;
  • The feeling of a lack of direction;
  • The pitfall of an abundance of seclusion.

Also I plan to be as transparent about my journey as I can. To that end, if any of my readers have questions or issues that they would like me to address please feel free to pass those on to me and I will address them as best as I can. My sincere hope is to help others (both those that are unemployed and those around the unemployed) through what can be a very difficult time. I also hope that there will be something of value in these posts for those struggling with similar issues even if it is not due to unemployment.

14,049 hours and 47 minutes...


Friday, February 01, 2013

A home going worth remembering

A friend of ours, Mr. Simon Lane, passed away in January. It was really sad to hear especially because we had not seen him or his family for a number of years. My wife used to work with Mr. Lane's wife a number of years ago but both ended up getting laid off. The first time that I met the Lane family was when they came to our church to sing.


The Lane Singers were impressive. I had seen good singers before. I had been to professional concerts before. But there was something special about this family. There was Mrs. Lane and what seemed like 20 daughters singing (they only had 6 daughters and I can't quite remember how many were singing with them at the time) with Mr. Lane on guitar and their son on bass. I could have sat there and listened to them for hours.

I had just started to play the guitar and get involved in helping out with worship at church so I was particularly drawn to Mr. Lane and his guitar playing. As I got to know Mr. Lane over the years I heard rumors and stories about how he made his way up to Chicago from Mississippi. One story that I particularly liked was how he had come up to Chicago to audition to play with Muddy Waters but instead ended up becoming a Christian and meeting his wife. Mr. Lane gave me the best piece of musical advice I have received. At one point I was telling him how I was struggling to learn to play a song the same way that the original artist was playing it. Mr. Lane told me that I needed to make the song my own instead of trying to playing it exactly the way someone else did. That forever changed the way that I approached playing music and leading worship.

The other stories about Mr. Lane that I really appreciated were the ones that his children told at Mr. Lane's "Home Going" service. They didn't have a funeral service rather they had a home going service. One of Mr. Lane's favorite sayings was that his citizenship is in Heaven. He was a devoted follower of Christ and knew that his sins were forgiven. He knew that when he died that he would be going to meet his maker in a very positive way. He knew that because of his faith in Christ that he would spend eternity in Heaven. And his family was also strongly aware of this and they celebrated his going home to Heaven. That celebration was filled with great singing, powerful spoken and written words as well as many tears.

Sardis Lane, Mr. Lane's son, gave the eulogy. It was equal parts remembering the impact that a strong Christian father had on his son and telling the Gospel message which gave the family the hope of seeing their father again one day. Sardis spoke with great passion about the need to share the Gospel message. In that moment Sardis was a living example of 1 Peter 3:15:

"But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect."

And Sardis credited the reason that he needed to give the Gospel message to the impact that his father had on him. I don't know any greater legacy that a parent can leave for their children. I hope that whoever gives my eulogy feels that same great hope and need to share the Gospel message.

I count myself blessed for having known Mr. Simon Lane and his family. I count myself blessed for the opportunity to hear the Lane Singers singing of their great faith. I also count myself blessed for the opportunities that I had to be involved as a musician in their concert events. Although I wish that I had taken greater advantage of those opportunities. But then I do have the great hope to once again be able to sit and play guitar with Mr. Lane. The next time we do so will be in Heaven in the presence of God. That will be a glorious time.


Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.