I will never sugar coat unemployment.
It is one of the toughest things that I have had to endure in my life. With a three year stint back in 2008 to 2011, and now, a three month experience, I am reminded of all the suffering, sacrifice, and self-torment involved with being unemployed. For unemployment is a vicious mix of disappointment, despair, loneliness, rationalization, desperate prayer, desperate activity, secrecy, anger, doubt, fear, rebellious pride, anxiety, and, unfortunately, increased temptations.
Yet, though I speak as a semi-hypocrite (I’ll explain the ‘semi’ later), I am well aware that two spirits knock at our soul’s door simultaneously. For unemployment brings about a vacuum of time and energy which must be filled through the choices we make with our free will.
Knocking at the back door, obviously, is the devil, or one of his lesser demons. Temptation to vice, whatever our vice of choice is, becomes more apparent when we are unattached to a vocation, trade, or career. But lust is sometimes the least of our problem. For the devil likes to work on our pride, anger, and self-protective nature, and seeks to make us blame everyone else for our current problems–though self loathing is a temptation too. This blame, moreover, includes God. In our most vulnerable state, the devil seeks to isolate us from friends, family, the Sacraments, the Mass, and, consequently, all interactions with God.
Obviously, feeling sorry for ourselves, and feeling anger for everyone else, especially those who are financially comfortable, and especially the Savior who seems to be silent in our suffering, we tend to pray less when we most certainly should be praying more.
But knocking at the front door is the Holy Spirit of the Merciful Messiah.
Unemployment is a golden opportunity to spend more time with God. Though it may be a suffering conversation, unemployment is a golden time to reevaluate our relationship with God, and with other people. It is a time to spend as much time as we can in prayer with the Crucified Jesus. It is a time to offer our suffering with his, and challenge our own compassion level for others suffering like us. It is a time to face our vices, seek repentance, go to confession, receive the Lord frequently, and seek the spiritual direction needed to gain victory over this thorn in our side.
It is a time to become Eucharistic. This means instead of isolation, seeking communion with our friends and family, fellow parishioners in the Mass, and picking a pet project of community charity…even if it is very modest in nature.
But let’s not get too carried away here!
Remember when I said I am a ‘semi’ hypocrite? Well, unemployment is a struggle, a burden, a wrestling match with the devil…and sometimes, like Jacob, a wrestle with God. I have gone to Mass without the energy to say a prayer, let alone a word. Total emptiness would be an accurate self-description. I have read Scriptures and wailed, and railed, to God. It wasn’t, and isn’t, pretty! But it is real. All of us have different baggage attached to our struggle with unemployment, and all of us experience it differently. Some better than others.
All I can say is that it doesn’t have to be a total prison sentence. There can be some amazing freedom in Christ within this dark storm. Unemployment certainly can be a dying. But we have a choice to die with Christ, dying to ourselves, or to die as an angry and bitter victim of the paper tigers we set up for blame.
Remember, we are not alone. We are accompanied by millions of other battlers in this storm. And, infinitely more, we are accompanied by the Lord of Mercy, faith, hope, strength, grace, and undying charity.