One of the most obvious consequences of our present economic downturn is the trial of unemployment. For many this is a trial they did not envision going through as they have never before had a problem being gainfully employed. However, this grim reality is now on their doorstep. How may we counsel those who are struggling through the trial of unemployment?
1. Encourage them to joyfully trust God’s good purposes for their time of trial.
Romans 8:28 is more than a Christian cliché. The truth that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” is a rock-solid assurance that not only is God in charge, but He always operates in suffering for the benefit of His children. Truly it is God himself who causes the good. What a comfort to know our Heavenly Father is not only able, but He is also good and does nothing without a purpose! Since the wisdom of our God is infinite it is impossible for us to fully know His reasons for our trial, but consider just three purposes for which He may allow the trial of unemployment.
First, one of God’s good purposes in ordaining trials into our lives is to produce the much needed character quality of endurance. Knowing this truth, James says, should produce a joyful response in times of testing. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). The apostle Paul had the same high view of trials, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).
Second, another good purpose for which God ordains testing is so that we may get to know Him in deeper, more intimate ways. This was the greatest blessing to come out of Job’s suffering. When his time of testing was complete he declared, “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees Thee” (Job 42:5). It is one thing to hear that God is faithful. It is another thing to “see” His faithfulness in the painful realities of life. It is one thing to have God “in your life,” (a regrettably common phrase). But it is another thing altogether to know that God is your life, to honestly, from an afflicted heart cry out in prayer: “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps 73:25-26).
Third, God may use this trial to mold and shape the unemployed person into becoming a more effective comforter, counselor, and encourager of others—having grown through their own experience. Paul reminded the Corinthians that God “comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor. 1:4).
God custom-designs our trials to purify, strengthen, and shape our character—to sanctify us. We may at times be tempted to think that our trials are a waste of time because we cannot see the end toward which the Potter is working. But rest assured. God never wastes our suffering. Indeed, God has good purposes for the trial of unemployment. Encourage your unemployed friends with this truth.