4. Encourage them to be teachable so as not to miss the hidden blessings of their trial but learn to rest in God’s all-sufficient grace.
There is no better teacher, or sanctifier, than trials. Trials have the unique power to strip away the comforts of life in order to expose our false assurances. Peter teaches us that trials refine our faith “being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire” (1 Pet 1:7). Suffering often tempts us to turn our focus inward to self-pity, which blinds us from God’s more valuable lessons. Therefore, we need the psalmist’s mindset, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Thy statutes” (Ps 119:71). The unemployed person needs to cultivate a heart that prays, “Thank you, Lord, that your grace is sufficient for my time of testing. Lord, whatever You want to teach me during this time of waiting, I am ready to learn” (2 Cor. 12:9).
5. Encourage them by praying for the Lord to protect them from the debilitating power of discouragement.
Discouragement is one of the most common maladies of the unemployed. Sometimes this discouragement is the result of having false hopes (the “perfect job”) or the absence of finding a job that provides “fair” compensation. Sometimes it comes from wearisome silence, the seemingly endless waiting for applications to be processed and the phone to ring. What is needed at this time is biblical hope. In the midst of discouragement, the psalmist learned to trust the true source of hope. “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance, and my God” (Ps 42:11). We who know this must be dispensers of hope to those who are discouraged.
6. Encourage them to not become complacent or develop time-wasting habits.
Some men who have been unemployed have told me that one of the greatest temptations they faced during their time of waiting was wasting time by doing nothing. It is amazing how quickly we can fill empty gaps of time with meaningless activity. Paul instructed the Ephesian believers, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph 5:15-17).
Proverbs 26:13-16 warns us to guard against slothfulness. The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! A lion is in the open square!” As the door turns on its hinges, so does the sluggard on his bed. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is weary of bringing it to his mouth again. The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can give a discreet answer.”
The man described in Proverbs is a malingerer. He has a hundred excuses why he “cannot” work and, therefore, stays at home in bed. This leads to self-deception, which blinds him from the exhortations of those who would try to help him, and secures his heart in stubbornness. Before Jonathan Edwards was twenty years old he made seventy resolutions. Resolution #5 reads, “Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.” A man who refuses to work is a disgrace to the concept of biblical manhood.
The man who cannot find work, though he earnestly seeks for it, needs encouragement. The man who refuses to work needs rebuke.