When I Was Unemployed

I have an “Urgent Prayer List” that includes the names of people who are in emergency situations and need immediate, focused prayer. These days, this list is filled with people who recently lost their jobs.

When I hear of church members losing their jobs, my heart aches because I understand the sense of shame people feel when they are laid off, and the uncertainty and fear they have until they find a new job. I understand because I was once out of a job myself.

My first child Danny was due to be born around the time I was to graduate from my PhD program. I had planned to stay at the university as a post-doc for an additional year because I felt that moving and starting a new job immediately after the birth of a new baby would strain our family life too much.

But my academic advisor abruptly left the university and I was informed that the contracts on my research projects wouldn’t be renewed. They told me that they would fund me for only 3 months after graduation. So I had to find a job quickly. I mailed 300 resumes across the country but all I got were polite rejection letters. Many companies didn’t even bother to reply, as the economy in 1976 was as bad or worse than the economy today.

After my research funds ran out, my wife became the breadwinner of the family by working as a pharmacist and I stayed home taking care of the baby. The fact that I couldn’t provide any income for the family made me guilty and cross, straining my relationship with my wife.

Time passed, and when I still couldn’t find a job, I started having irrational fears that I might not be able to hold a job my entire life.

At this low point in my life, I learned to have sympathy and compassion for unfortunate people, especially those without a job. I used to think that people who lost their jobs or failed in business were incompetent. But I realized that these things can happen regardless of ability or effort.

God, however, was faithful to the promise that He does not test us beyond what we can bear. After 3 months of unemployment, I revised my resume and mailed it out again. This time I got a flood of interviews. I believe God was telling me that He allowed that time of difficulty to train me to be sympathetic to the unfortunate, and that when the time of trial was over, He was going to bless me out of His abundance by giving me multiple job interviews.

I received offers from the two first companies I interviewed with. I accepted one (from Varian) and cancelled all my other interviews. God planned everything so perfectly that our bank savings ran out the day I received my first paycheck.

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