"Being out of work or dependent on public or private assistance for a prolonged period undermines the freedom and creativity of the person and his family and social relationships, causing great psychological and spiritual
suffering. I would like to remind everyone, especially governments engaged in boosting the world's economic and social assets, that the primary capital to be safeguarded
and valued is man, the human person in his or her integrity...."
Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in veritate (2009). #25.
Losing your job is a traumatic experience which may have serious and sometimes catastrophic economic, personal -- and spiritual -- consequences.
The first thing you should know if you have recently been laid off or lost your job is that there is no one thing you can do to cope with the loss of regular employment.
A constructive and successful response requires a variety of efforts, designed to address the various economic, personal and spiritual challenges which accompany being unemployed. For example, finding a new job is obviously a high priority--but finding a new job may take time. In the meantime, you also need to address the other social, personal and economic concerns that arise when you are unemployed.
Click here for a guide to what you should do first.
• • •
Being laid off or losing your job shatters dreams and betrays expectations; in many cases it suddenly threatens to destroy everything an individual or couple has worked years to establish and maintain.
The experience of losing your job creates a wide variety of powerful and sometimes conflicting emotions. You may feel angry, dismayed, confused, embarrassed, ashamed, even guilty. You may feel like a failure. You may feel like people you trusted have rejected or betrayed you. You may feel like a victim of injustice or prejudice, a victim of systems and powers beyond your control. You may experience an unexpected loss of self-confidence, self-respect, self-esteem or self-integrity. You may blame yourself or others--or both.
You may act out some of these feelings in angry or defiant behavior, or you may try to suppress these feelings and become despondent and depressed. It is important to recognize that any or all of these feelings are perfectly natural and often well-founded. In any case, it is important to identify and talk about these feelings in an honest and constructive way with people you trust. Pretending that these feelings do not exist or are not valid will only complicate your response to the many challenges which come with not having a regular job.
Click here for suggestions on how to adjust your income and expenses.
• • •
The Spiritual Challenge
For people of faith, losing a job may also raise serious questions of a spiritual nature: doubts about God’s faithfulness, the value of religious faith, the efficacy of prayer, or the sincerity of the church community. While some individuals find comfort and courage in their religious convictions under such circumstances, others feel betrayed or embarrassed. Some are tempted to abandon active participation in a faith community; others, who have been estranged or distant, may wish to become more active. These too are legitimate and natural feelings.
If you are a person of faith who has been laid off or lost their job, it is important to remember two things:
• Religious faith is never a guarantee that bad things will not happen, even though we are sometimes led to believe that it is. Faith is the conviction that all will eventually be well, no matter what happens, because God loves us and God is at work in Creation--often working through us to fashion a kingdom of justice and peace. Faith is what enables us to respond with determination and hope when we experience painful, inexplicable and unwelcome personal tragedies like losing a job.
• Prayer is not an appeal for some magical answer to our problems. In its deepest sense, prayer is an expression of our conviction that we are the sons and daughters of a God who loves us, who cares about us, and who wishes the very best for us. It is an expression of our desire to work with God's grace to face our problems, confident that God cares about us and will not stop loving, inspiring and supporting us. The cross reminds us that this may involve hard work and hard times, but Jesus' resurrection assures us that ultimate victory is never in doubt.
It is also important to remember that difficult situations and hard times like losing a job are not an expression of God's displeasure, or God's punishment for past failures.
• • •
What You Can Do
If you are a person of faith who is struggling spiritually because you have lost your job, here are some general suggestions which you might find helpful:
• Set aside time each day for prayer and reflection.
Losing your job and coping with all of the repercussions of not having regular employment can be overwhelming. Moreover, finding a new job often requires reassessing important assumptions, choices and values which have guided your life's work. It is important to spend some time each day looking at how you are coping with these challenges. More importantly, it is helpful to look beyond the immediate crisis and to stay focused on the “big picture.”
In the immediate aftermath of a traumatic experience, many people lose the will or the ability to actually “say” prayers. In that case, this is a time for developing a new way to pray by sitting quietly and letting God speak to you. Be attentive to the various ways, occasions, and circumstances in which you might be hearing God's inspiration for the first time.
Some people keep a journal during difficult times to record thoughts, feelings and impressions which might reveal God's presence and direction in their lives. Others discover the value of joining a prayer group, participating in daily Eucharist or other public prayer like a holy hour, or using a prescribed form of private prayer such as the Liturgy of the Hours, the rosary or centering prayer.
Click here for more information about local prayer groups.
• Continue to participate as fully as possible in the spiritual and sacramental life of the faith community.
In some cases, unemployed persons find it difficult to remain actively involved in a parish community, especially if they feel other members may be judging them for their “failure” or seem completely unaware--or unconcerned--about their personal suffering.
It is helpful to remember in either case that most members of the faith community have (or eventually will) suffer painful disappointments, losses and failures in their own lives. They may be unsure of what to say or do to acknowledge your personal situation, but their continued presence in the faith community is a reminder that our shared faith helps all of us survive crises like losing a job.
Participation in the spiritual and sacramental life of the Catholic community reminds us that other people share our conviction that God's love, care and grace will help us survive any crisis, including this one, even if the community's conviction does not translate into direct expressions of encouragement and support.
• Seek the support and advice of good friends, a trusted personal confidant, or a wise spiritual director.
People who have lost their job often feel abandoned, rejected and isolated. It is important under these circumstances to make a deliberate effort to maintain personal relationships, especially with your spouse, children, close family members and good friends. This is important even though you may be preoccupied with all of the other challenges involved in coping with the loss of a job and finding a new one.
Under these circumstances, some people find it helpful to choose a particular individual -- a good friend, personal confidant or spiritual director -- to meet with regularly as long as the crisis continues. This person can help encourage, support and guide you; he or she can help you stay focused on the big picture. This confidant or guide should be someone you can be honest with and whose opinion you trust. (If you are married, this person should not be of the opposite gender.)
• Finally, make a serious effort to attend to your personal, emotional and mental health.
Maintain healthy eating habits, exercise regularly, get sufficient rest, take time to relax and recreate, stay socially connected and emotionally available to family and friends. Stay active; resist the temptation to stay at home, watching TV, playing video games, or searching the Internet. Take time to notice and appreciate the many small (and sometimes not so small) blessings which you receive or observe from day to day.
Although you are preoccupied with lots of routine tasks and special challenges, make a deliberate effort to notice and appreciate the beauty of nature and the awesome wonder of the universe we live in. Our faith assures us that we are not small, insignificant and meaningless accidents in God's Creation. We are the reason for Creation, and we are --each one of us--meant to inherit the eternal Kingdom which God is creating in our midst.
When necessary, don't hesitate to consult with your doctor, a mental health professional, or a counselor whose expertise and experience can help you respond more positively and effectively to the overwhelming challenges of losing your job and finding a new one.
• • •
Like any other personal crisis, losing your job may have a serious impact on your personal and spiritual life. It may challenge your understanding of faith, test your relationship with God, or alter your relationship to the Church. However, it can also become an opportunity for an even deeper, stronger, more enriching spiritual life. As in most matters related to faith, the real challenge is to continue learning to grow and change.
Prayers for the Unemployed
Click here for prayers for people who are unemployed.
A Reflection on Being Unemployed
Read and reflect quietly on this passage from the Gospel according to John:
Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee's sons, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We also will come with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, "Children, have you caught anything to eat?" They answered him, "No."
So he said to them, "Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something." So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord."
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards, dragging the net with the fish.
When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you just caught." So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, "Come, have breakfast." And none of the disciples dared to ask him, "Who are you?" because they realized it was the Lord. Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish. [John 21:2-13]
Use these questions for personal reflection, prayer or a small group discussion:
• Do you recognize any similarities between the disciples in this Gospel
account and an unemployed person like yourself?
• Can you identify the disciples' sense of failure with your own?
• Jesus told the disciples to cast their net on the other side of the
boat. What might he suggest that you do under present circumstances?
• Why do you think the disciples responded as they did: was it faith or
desperation which caused them to follow the stranger's advice?
• This experience, which might easily have ended in disaster, ends
instead with a celebration. Can you imagine when, where and how you
might celebrate when the crisis of unemployment passes?
• Where, when or how do you see and hear the Lord's encouragement
and support expressed most concretely and helpfully in your own life?
• How would you summarize the insight, wisdom or lesson contained in
this Gospel account?
• • •
Click here for more reflections on work and unemployment.
Share Your Experience and Advice
Are you unemployed? Have you been unemployed in the past? How are you coping with the personal, emotional, practical and spiritual challenges of being unemployed? Where have you found the most helpful assistance and support? What tips or suggestions would you offer to people who are facing unemployment today?
Share your experiences, insights and suggestions in our Forum.
Click here for the Forum page.
Resources for Those Who
Have Lost Their Job
The websites of the following organizations provide a variety of resources on how to deal with the practical challenges of losing a job and searching for a new job:
Iowa Workforce Development
Iowa State Extension Service
American Federation of Labor/Unemployment Lifeline
Can My Boss Do That?/Interfaith Worker Justice
Career One Stop/Service Locator
National Employment Law Project
Union of Unemployed
Pamphlets and Brochures
Request a copy of the following brochures from the Catholic Parishes' Director of Adult Faith Formation (email: DBQ208s3@arch.pvt.k12.ia.us):
Job-Seeking After a Layoff
Landing a Job--Tips for a Successful Job Search
Coping with Job Transition
Making a Family Budget
138 Ways to Beat the High Cost of Living
Stress Management--Tips for Daily Living
Your Attitude and You
Online Articles and Resources
These articles and resources address the various personal and spiritual issues involved in losing and job and searching for a new one:
Blessed Are the Unemployed (Beliefnet)
Can My Boss Do That?
Confronting Job Loss--Finding Hope/Video (University of Notre Dame)
Coping Well with Unemployment (Colorado State Extension)
Coping with Uncertainty and Hardship (Life4Seekers)
Decisions and Choices (International Association of Machinists)
Embracing the Desert (Liguorian)
Financial Crisis Support Center (Beliefnet)
How to Be Strong in Hard Times (Beliefnet)
How to Deal with Life After Layoff (eHow.com)
How to Deal with Unemployment (About.com)
How to Survive Layoffs (Beliefnet)
Living in Anxious Times (ExploreFaith)
Making Peace with Personal Debt (Beliefnet)
Positive Steps in a New Direction (Beliefnet)
Prayers About Jobs and Money (Beliefnet)
The Prison of Want--How to Break Free (Ethics.com)
Sizing Up Your Financial Situation (Iowa State Extention)
So You've Lost Your Job (Interfaith Worker Justice)
Spiritual Meaning of the Economic Crisis (Interfaith Worker Justice)
Spiritual Survival Guide for the Recession (CNN Belief Blog)
Stress--Taking Charge/Unemployment (Iowa State Extension)
A Survival Guide for the Unemployed (MSN Money)
Surviving Hard Economic Times (Everyday Catholic)
Ten Prayers During Difficult Economic Times (Beliefnet)
Ten Tips for the Suddenly Unemployed (Beliefnet)
Ten Ways to Find Hope in Tough Times (Beliefnet)
Understanding the Loss in Job Loss (Iowa State Extension)
Unemployed? Keep Depression at Bay (Beliefnet)
Unemployed But Not Unhappy (BustedHalo)
Unemployment Rosary (Our Sunday Visitor)
Waiting on God When You're Unemployed (Beliefnet)
When Unemployment Hits Home (For Your Marriage)
When Someone Is Unemployed (Our Sunday Visitor)
Working Through a Tough Economy (The Christophers)
Balancing Your Life--Setting Personal Goals.
Paul Stevens. Resource Publications, 1996. 0893903752
On-the-Job Spirituality--Finding God in Work.
Marianne E. Roche. St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2002.
God on the Job--Finding God Who Waits at Work.
Thomas Smith. Paulist Press, 1995. 0809135361
Hope for Hard Times
Scott Hahn. Our Sunday Visitor, 2009. 9781592767106.
The Job Hunter's Spiritual Companion.
William Carver. Innisfree Press, 1998. 1880913305.
The Reinvention of Work--A New Vision of Livelihood for Our Time.
Matthew Fox. HarperSanFrancisco, 1994. 0060629185,
Soul at Work--Reflections on a Spirituality of Working.
Barbara Smith-Moran. St. Mary's Press, 1997. 9780884893967.
A Spiritual Guide for the Unemployed.
Timothy Mullner. Liguori Publications. 2011. 9780764820601.
Spirituality@Work--Ten Ways to Balance Your Life On-the-Job.
Gregory F.A. Pierce. Loyola Press, 2001. 0829413499.
The Spirituality of Work--Unemployed Workers.
Joseph Gosse. ACTA Publications, 1993. 0879460881
When Someone Is Unemployed
Lorene Hanley Duquin. Our Sunday Visitor
You Are More Than Your Job--Making a Living vs. Making a Life.
Earl Harrison. Deaconess Press, 1993. 0925190705.
Your Soul at Work--Five Steps to a More Fulfilling Career and Life.
Nicholas W. Weiler. Paulist Press. 1587680068.
Local Agencies and Services
Click here for a list of local agencies and services.
How We Can Help
The Catholic Parishes in Waterloo are eager to encourage and support our sisters and brothers who have been laid off or lost their job.
The parishes can provide opportunities for personal and small group prayer, pastoral counseling and spiritual direction, emergency help, and information about resources and opportunities in the local community.
If you or someone you know has lost their job and is interested in the encouragement and support of the Catholic parishes in Waterloo, please contact a member of the parish staff or:
Director of Adult Faith Formation • 320 Mulberry Street, Waterloo IA 50703
Phone: 319-234-9912 • Email: DBQ208s3@arch.pvt.k12.ia.us