How Unemployment can be a time of spiritual growth
O Glorious St Cajetan, Father of Divine Providence, help all those who are unemployed, who search for employment and who fear for their jobs, lead them towards what they are looking for and pray for us all that we may be courageous in the face of adversity
Unemployment is never an easy situation, especially when there is a family to be supported. Moreover, people often peg their sense of self-esteem to a job. Work, in fact, has a spiritual dimension. Pope John Paul II’s 1981 encyclical Laborem Exercensobserves: “Work is a good thing for man — a good thing for his humanity — because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfillment as a human being.” Through our work we contribute to building society and helping our neighbors. The Catechism in No. 2427 notes, “ Human work proceeds directly from persons created in the image of God and called to prolong the work of creation by subduing the earth, both with and for one another.” In this sense, God is certainly concerned about how we make a living. Any work that truly improves the community and the individual is an activity worthy of respect. Even the humblest job can help a person grow in virtue if he undertakes it out of love for God and others. More than a few unsung saints have spent years toiling in disagreeable jobs in order to provide for their loved ones.
Now to the question about how to discern God’s will during this troublesome time. That is often one of the biggest question marks hanging over us. Firstly and most importantly it is good to remember who you are. You are a beloved son/daughter of a heavenly Father. You are made in his image and gifted with an immortal soul. That is the heart of your identity. God cares about you and your well-being. “Your Father knows what you need” (Matthew 6:8). Reminding ourselves of God’s providence can help to stave off worries and feelings of despair. Then too, we have to “pray always without becoming weary” (Luke 18:1). Prayer demands perseverance because God has his own timetable for responding to petitions. He often speaks in a whisper, so he wants us to make an effort to listen to him. If you have more time on your hands right now, consider dedicating longer periods to prayer and Bible reading. Attend daily Mass, if possible. Learn to guard the spirit of silence in your life by limiting the use of media and other distractions. In this way you give the Holy Spirit the space he needs to work in you. The Spirit also needs something to work with. That is why it is good to have a strategy for job hunting. Program your time well. Tap into your network of friends and business contacts. Keep an eye on helpful job-posting websites. Pursue every worthwhile lead. Be flexible. Also, consider doing volunteer work; it helps us put our own challenges in perspective when we attend to the needs of others.
Be alert, too, to how your next job could be integrated into your spiritual life. Downtime between jobs can help to teach us more humility, more patience, more gratitude. That means that we might re-enter the workforce as better people. At that point we can perhaps see better that our work is a way to give glory to God. For now, don’t lose hope. God has a plan for you, and he will reveal it in his time, lean on his strength and trust in his Providence. Even great Saints had "off" days, St. Teresa of Avila once said that some days she felt that she could take on the world, and others she couldn't stand up to an ant!