The Forecast: Cautiously Optimistic

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs…. It’s the topic of discussion on everybody’s radar these days. Because, try as we might, we just can’t get away from the scary thought of what it would be like to be out of work. And while government officials would spin the numbers in such a way as to have us believe that the worst is behind us, I just don’t buy it. Not that I mean to be political, because I’m not, but I am close enough to the employment situation that I believe that I can speak with some authority into the problem.

After all, I was in the industry for 29 years and wrote my first dissertation on “A New Paradigm for Coaching and Counseling People and Their Families in Career Transition.” After I received my advanced education, several ministry partners and I started Chaplains at Work, a faith based workplace initiative designed to help people deal with the loss of employment. We taught about the need to engage God in the process of looking for a new career and actually held seminars and weekly meetings for families who had experienced job loss.  During those years, I saw families go through the loss of their home, the repossession of their automobiles and even the attempted suicide of teenage children embarrassed by the ridicule they suffer as peers find out that parents are unemployed.

Interestingly, even though we assisted thousands of people, the legacy of people who would stick around and donate their time after they were re-engaged in the work world was minimal. After all, the pain of unemployment is sometimes just too much to re-live, and people wanted to distance themselves as soon as they could. Out of work is a tough place to be.

So when the phone rang earlier this week and it was Fox News calling, I answered with mixed feelings. Because every time new statistics come out and the media wants a local person to assess the numbers, I usually get the call. Before noon, Eva, the Fox reporter assigned to the story and her cameraman were at the front door. She asked many of the standard questions and then asked me to look into the future; the interview ran on the Fox Evening News, and again the next morning. The truth is that I want the problems to go away. But the reality is that so far the uptick in the number of people working is just a seasonal adjustment due to high temporary employment in November and December. Now that those days are over, at least for now, you can expect the job situation to get a little worse again. Sure enough, the unemployment numbers are once again creeping up. We’re not out of this yet…..

Based on what I am seeing, companies are what I would call “cautiously optimistic;” they want to hire people, but they are still afraid. If the economy recovers a little, and it should, many companies would be forced to hire a few people to handle increased demand for their products and services. Since we are in a presidential election year, hopefully, the economy will perk up. After all, every politician wants to look good in an election year.

But there are certain scars that chronically unemployed people must face. In many cases, the jobs they held don’t exist any more. And the average person will have to work until almost 70 years of age (5 more than the standard retirement age of 65) to make up for the lost income and retirement needs that went unmet during times of unemployment. The incidence of divorce and family strife, including mental health counseling is also on the rise. All these things paint a tough picture for us to deal with. That’s the down side – now what about hope for the future. By now, you know where I’m going with this, don’t you?

What’s God have to say about all this? After all, in my opinion, the Bible is the greatest career transition manual ever written. We just don’t think of it that way. Look at how many people in the Bible went through career transition – and most of them came out the other side with a better life than they ever had before. David – shepherd to King; Peter – fisherman to apostle (also the first Pope); Amos – fig picker turned prophet. There are hundreds of examples of God’s faithfulness to those who trust Him. And if there is one thing that we can learn from God, it is that He doesn’t care what we do as long as it is honest work and honors the Kingdom of God in this world.

The verse tonight is one not typically used in discussing career change, but it is full of wisdom. The words come from Paul, in Col. 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

My encouragement tonight is that if you are looking for work, you will turn the problem over to God. He has a plan for your life and work is part of it. And my prayer is that if you are already working, then please remember who you are working for – and count your blessings. Of course, it’s important to keep your perspective – you’re never alone – God is with you every step of the way! And that’s the best news of your life…..


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