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I have been out of work and am struggling with discernment

December 23, 2010 by  
Filed under Anonymous, Discernment, God's Will, Suffering

Dear Father Edward, I have been out of work for a while. I know God is not in the employment business, nor is he that concerned with how we make a living. His concern is for our soul. That said, I'm told I will know God's will … and that he is leading me to something just right for me. But how do we know the direction he's leading us in? And how do we pray about this … and how do I keep from worrying? What if I just don't feel anything as to what to do? Why is God silent? Is there a way to “hear better”?

I'm sorry to hear about your difficulties finding a job. 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 Exercens observes: “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 you 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 your question about God's will. That is often one of the biggest question marks hanging over us. Let's say that it is good to remember who you are. You are a beloved son 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. I'll keep you and your job search in my next Mass intentions. Best of God's graces to you!

Yours in Christ, Father Edward McIlmail, LC

Father McIlmail is a theology instructor at Mater Ecclesiae College in Greenville, RI.

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  • Donald

    Thank you Fr. Mcllmail for your advice. I am not unemployed; however, I do have concerns from time to time about discerning God’s will in my life and I find your advice helpfu. Thank you and God bless you in your work. Donald+

  • Guest

    God bless you, Father Edward. Your response to this person is so insightful and re-assuring. You have spoken to him as if you knew him personally and I am sure God will soon give him the job he needs very soon. I,too, have benefited because I am not able to hear or discern God’s Voice when anxiety and self-doubt assail me. May you have a Blessings-filled Christmas. I wish the same to all God’s people on this Faith-building Website

  • Becky Ward

    Awesome advice Fr. Edward!!

    I am reminded as I read this of so many of the saints and spiritual masters who tell us that it is precicsely when we cannot detect God’s presence with us that He is the closest to us.

    Wishing all a very Blessed Christmas……filled with peace!

  • Anonymous

    Father, I am confused. The questioner wrote, “I know God is not in the employment business, nor is he that concerned with how we make a living. His concern is for our soul.” Could you respond to this statement? If this is true, then it certainly seems as though it doesn’t matter the type of job that this person gets, and that there is no need to look for a job that “could be integrated into [his or her] spiritual life” because God is NOT leading this person to a job that is just right for him or her. In this case, it seems that God will just use the particular job that he or she finds to work out the person’s salvation. Is this true?

    • Dear Friend – I sent your question to Fr. Edward…

  • $1650412

    Ok, I just have to say something here-the inquirer said:
    “I know God is not in the employment business, nor is he that concerned with how we make a living. His concern is for our soul.”
    You are so right that concern for our souls is paramount- BUT I promise you that God CARES so much about everything in our lives- every detail that troubles us ESPECIALLY the worries and concerns of one who is a provider and is out of work – that is HUGE for the person in the experience, and God really really cares!!!!
    Ok, that said, these are the times when we are tempted to downplay the value our troubles have in the grand scheme of God’s work, but it’s this kind of trial that refines our faith- makes real what we profess about our hope in our personal Incarnate God.
    And I know from experience that what Fr. says about applying ourselves and looking for the Holy Spirit in the subdued details is so true and so important. Some things you cannot learn any other way- things that are so meaningful and uniting to the person of Our Lord- these only come through particular trials- and God is surgically precise in the allotment of suffering and heartache He alllows us to endure, or that He invites us to endure- and none of it, not one iota, is arbitrary.
    I totally agree with Father’s counsel – thinking if it were me I would be so tempted to be discouraged into inaction – but also I want so much to reiterate GOD LOVES YOU- He is closer than your next breath, press on, it will all become clear and it will all prove worthwhile in time!

  • Johntgallo

    To the person from Bergenfield, N.J. who has been out of work and is struggling with discernment…I understand exactly what you are going thru. I am also from Bergenfield and next month will be 1 year that I am out of work. What I am trying to do is look upon this “down time” as time to come closer to the Catholic faith, spend more time in daily prayer, read good books on the wonders of the Catholic faith, volunteer my time to those who are less fortunate than I am, and ask God in my prayers to direct me in a “new direction” whereas I can serve him better than I previously did. When Jesus Christ walked this earth, he had times when he was troubled and suffered, what makes us any different !!! We must use this time as a time of renewal and our belief in our faith will help us get thru this difficult time. God will provide, He also does !!!

    • faithful

      I am the writer of the ‘how to discern God’s leading’ while on unemployment, I am from NJ (but not Bergenfield, don’t know where you got that) Father Ed’s response was VERY helpful. Especially the part of planning my time well and plugging into ‘networking contacts’ / I could always find work in the 20th century because; having a ‘vocation’ (graphic art business; as in creating and layout of print media, I simply would walk into a business of that type, and after a few doors ‘someone’ said yes.
      I believe it was the showing of the face.Prayer, I concluded awhile back, isn’t just sitting in a pew saying “Spirit, give me a job.” To give the Spirit something to work with, we go IN FAITH and knock on doors. The 21st Century is difficult because humanity is cut off from humanity by electronics (computer email resume)

      I found the line God speaks in a whisper interesting; because recently ever so faintly I heard “I must be my own authority” With more reflection, I came to this: In the 21st century of working, authority is NOT really of a GOD authority. Everyone is generally out to protect self. Bullies in the workplace has been my problem of late, and GOD seemed to be
      whispering — BE MY OWN AUTHORITY — ie: be in the confidence of GOD ‘within me’ …when I don’t see GO(O)D AUTHORITY around me. My mind went to the biblical verse of Jesus in the temple ‘speaking with authority’ … what He was doing was speaking IN GOD. Speaking with
      patience, kindness, understanding, knowledge that I came to know BY
      GOD living. And then, I saw a small print company, with a big sign ‘marketing reps’ needed. (what that means is they want someone to
      go and sell (speak of) their service to businesses) I am more ‘artist’ than
      sales…yet the idea is intriguing. My ‘dream’ was to be self employed
      and use my ‘visual art ability’ to help small businesses in a creative type
      way. I can’t really afford to be self employed…AND YET…this might be
      a way to sort of BE MY OWN AUTHORITY…ie: SPEAK ‘IN GOD’ to
      provide local business folk opportunity to increase their business.
      I haven’t as yet spoken to owner of shop yet. Briefly I stopped in to
      find it was “commission only” …BUT in the words of Fr. Ed, maybe
      some flexibility is what GOD is leading me to. ie: maybe IN GOD, I
      can convince owner to pay me a small salary in exchange for not just
      selling print services but setting it up and working in the artist capacity.

      God ‘may have’ led me to work where I don’t have to be ‘in office’ all the
      time…thus not have that ‘bullying’ office politics system to contend with.
      Integrating next job into my spiritual life? Getting to earn a living utilizing
      the creative gifts God provided to me – for the benefit of others who need help to make their living. Sounds like a very GOD given job opportunity.

      I am praying about this.

  • faithful

    Thank you Father Edward. I was the original author of the discerning God’s will in my unemployment status. I posted a reply to johntgallo here, but also wanted to reply to you. I understand your point about avoiding distractions of the ‘media’ during the ‘silence of my being without work’ – I think. The media
    to avoid dwelling on is the newspapers or internet articles that discourage with their gloomy stats on the number of unemployed. Also, the computer, sometimes a tool for good, can like anything else, be ‘the devil’s way to distract us’ from being productive. (I am female and single by the way) I live
    ‘at home’ and that’s a blessing when unemployed. I have worked 30 years
    consistently and always grew in knowledge of graphics and office working.
    (traditional graphics and computer graphic set up) But, my drawing board
    grows ‘dusty’ as I send out resumes on line. (yet I want to sit down and
    create again) As you state, time is precious and a gift, and sometimes I
    feel God gave me this down time, so that I could sit at drawing board again.
    The devil can make us feel ‘false guilt’ for not pursuing the finding of work
    every waking minute. God may be telling me to USE THIS TIME for HIM
    AND HIS GIFTS to me. (my ability to illustrate)

    I do attend daily Mass, I do have a spiritual director, I do prayerfully meditate
    on Scripture (Lectio Divinia) Of late, I read but nothing ‘speaks’ to me; and
    perhaps that’s because God wants me to put the book aside for awhile and
    ACT on HIS WORD… Do ‘something’ … ‘work for me’ … and ‘feel good’ about who I am. (the workplaces of this day can make one feel like a less than, as our “co-workers” demean our value to ‘up their own self esteem’ (commonly
    known as bullying, a rather new phenomenon – as the amount of jobs is
    tight, the Almighty dollar is put higher than Almighty God, and work is not
    as abundant. Also, that there is seemingly a double standard in business
    of how some are treated with a special consideration, ie: they can’t be
    critized for wrong behaviors; they are placed in positions not quite qualified
    for – for reason of appeasing external ‘forces’ (it’s saddly true) God may want
    me to see again, I haven’t been idle these 30 years. I came to know much.

    As I posted to another here, in a very ‘quiet’ (not audibly per se) but in a
    quiet way…I heard I NEED TO BE MY OWN AUTHORITY, and not so much
    listen to someone merely of human authority. I need to know HE who is
    within and ACT on ‘that authority’ (as Jesus did, when speaking with all
    authority in the temple) Jesus spoke IN GOD. ie: Jesus spoke from the depths of His being (knew HIS WORTH)

  • Bridgit in Abita

    Great Advice Father McIImail. I would like to add a person message. I to have been unemployed for 10 months. During that time, I have attended mass daily, prayed for 3 hours or more throughout the day (divine office-morning & night, Divine Mercy in 3 O’clock hours, hour of reparation once a week, rosary and 15 St. Bridget’s prayers.) I had to cash in all my retirement accounts and savings to not loose my home but I have grown so much spiritually. Have also gotten to know many people at my church whom I have coffee with after mass in the KC hall. They have helped me to grow spiritually and they pray for me every day and it truly makes a difference. I have just found a new job very close to home and right next to an Abbey and a Carmelite order when I can continue daily Mass. Trust me, this is a HUGE opportunity for growth, love, patience, faith and fellowship. Try to hold on to the peace of Christ in your heart. If you find yourself worrying, pray a rosary or find an adoration chapel and pray, pray, pray. Also get to know the people in your parish, esp the retired ones, they go to church every day and are ready to share their experiences and give great advice. Added benefit is you will get prayed for by many people and you will grow in Love. God Bless you!!!!! Praise God for he is Good and His Mercy endures forever.

    • faithful123

      Faithful’s reply to Bridgit. Thank you for the advice. I do go to Daily Mass; but at times; I don’t feel very strong. My job that ended came about by a bullying method of a co-worker I endured for almost 3 years under the advice ‘say nothing’ just do the job hired for. (this one undermined just about everything I did) I feel no closure though I sometimes pray for this one and my supervisor which is her supervisor. I’m told; Business knows what it is about, but I can’t say anything about it.
      I have to let this one have it as she got it.

      IT HURTS… and I fight ‘anger’ now and again.

      Sometimes, I feel strong, for not biting at her bait and sometimes… I am weak. And it’s very confusing and sometimes I feel I’m losing my
      faith…BUT I DON’T WANT THAT…

      • 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… (loosely translated).

        • Mustardseed3

          So; it’s normal to feel ‘strong’ and ‘happy’ and then a week later feel so ANGRY and yes, somewhat filled with a ‘hate’ (*which is probably more ‘hate’ of actions then person) and when I confess this ‘hate’ / I certainly don’t want to go think the same ideas or verbalize hateful words in my private home; but sometimes it comes upon me faster than I can hold it back, is this ‘weakness in Faith’
          Have I gone against the grace of the Sacrament of
          Reconciliation?

          • I think your description matches the emotion in the psalms…

          • faithful

            I don’t understand. How is my description an emotional match to the psalms.

          • Have you read the psalms?

          • faithful123

            I read a few here and there; and of course the psalm is used in the … I forgot the term…is in intercessory prayers? I guess the psalms are sort of letters to God expressing faith, or fears or worries or hope…or AHHHH yes
            EMOTIONS of a ‘human’ spirit…(so; while it is better to release anger in a more ‘holy’ way…God simply allows me to ‘vent it out’ …He knows my heart intentions) Yes? Venting can be a ‘prayer’ for ‘help from God’ yes?

          • faithful123

            prayerful reading of the psalms rather than my own vents will bring me to see that ‘what I feel’ is not unique to me; that all humanity suffers the ups and down feelings of living on this earth. This would connect me TO GOD in my human-ness; and when connected; He will lead in how to deal with what is hurting. YES?

  • Elizabeth

    Thankyou for your words. Please pray for my unemployment predicament too.

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