Some Thoughts on Unemployment

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The Bible has a great deal to say about work and the lack thereof. The first verse that usually pops to mind when we think about work is II Thessalonians 3:10, which says; “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.”

But in this season of history we’re currently in, with a global pandemic which has prompted governments to severely restrict movement, essentially crippling many industries, enormous numbers of people have found themselves out of work against their will and through no fault of their own. An article in the Jerusalem Post this week said that as of mid-October 2020, nearly 1 million Israelis are unemployed.

This awful state of affairs has all kinds of direct and indirect effects, far beyond the most obvious issues such as loss of income and disruptions of daily routines. Reports of domestic violence have skyrocketed worldwide, along with suicide, depression, anxiety, and a long list of other social ills. Another recent article in the Jerusalem Post I saw recently said that the average Israeli has gained between 5 and 10 kilograms during the extended lockdown due to a variety of factors including “stress eating” and a lack of access to gyms (1.3 million Israelis had gym memberships in 2019, according to the article). A sharp rise has also been observed in the number of Israelis taking both prescription anti-depressant medication and illegal drugs, as well as alcohol.

The long list of problems arising from widespread, prolonged unemployment have been proven by numerous academic studies, but most of us don’t need such proof because we can see these things first-hand in the lives of our friends, family members and even ourselves.

Beyond our personal, empirical experiences our news sources are flooded with stories about the stress this economic crisis is having on every other aspect of societal life. I do not, for instance, think that the social unrest in the US and many other countries around the world in the past several months would have been nearly as severe and disruptive as it was (and still is in some places) if there were not so many people who were unemployed and so had time to go out in the streets and join in demonstrations.

The question, as always is “what is to be done”?

First of all, as is always the case, the first thing we can and MUST do is pray. We must pray for our leaders, both the political leaders in our countries and communities but also the pastors and elders in our congregations and fellowships, to have wisdom in dealing with the many problems that this situation presents. We must pray for our families and the other families in our congregations.

Needless to say, pray for yourself to get a new job and to have the wisdom and resourcefulness to keep yourself and your family together until you do. Also, it’s a great time to spend more time in the Word of God and in fellowship with others in your fellowship. This is a way you can stave off depression and anxiety, and at the same time, it’s the way to gain the knowledge and understanding you’ll need to share the Gospel with those MANY people you’ll encounter who need hope and direction in this lost and dying world.

After you’ve done all that, there’s a few other things you can do.

Having been unemployed myself since early March, I can offer a few suggestions for dealing with all the negative feelings that come along with being out of work. My wife is still working, so between her salary, my savings and the unemployment benefits I’ve gotten from the government we’ve been “okay” moneywise. But the boredom and sense of confinement that came with the lockdowns and the fact that so many of the places I’d ordinarily go for diversion and entertainment (e.g. the cinema) are closed meant I had to get creative.

I read several books over the past seven months, and watched a fair number of movies I had on my computer which I’d meant to “get to someday” when I had time. I also had some fitness equipment and an established morning workout routine so I kept up with that and managed to avoid the above-mentioned weight gain that so many of my fellow Israelis suffered from.

I also found a way to beat the feeling of uselessness which is such a big problem, especially for men who are unemployed, by assigning myself several hours a week of clean up duty on the little side street where our apartment is located. I raked up leaves and garbage, dug up weeds and otherwise tended the small flower garden that our building has, washed my neighbors cars a few times and otherwise just did “little jobs” that I saw which needed to be done. The feeling of having accomplished something every day, however small, was not as nice as a pay check would have been, but it kept my head above water, emotionally speaking.

With my children having been out of school for much of the past seven months I also spent a lot of time with them. They’ve needed help with “distance learning” and I’ve done my best to see this as an opportunity rather than a nuisance, although I admit some days I didn’t do so well at this. Very early on in the crisis I heard a podcast in which someone suggested that, as this season might last for several months, we would all do well to ask ourselves what our children will say about it someday and try and make choices which will result in them having as positive an experience as possible. I thought that was good advice at the time and I still do.

That’s what I’ve got for you this week brothers and sisters. If you’re currently unemployed like me, or if you know someone who is, I hope it blessed you.