In my almost 10 years as a freelance film editor, I’ve been unemployed many times. And yet I have been in a position to enjoy it—lots of free time for hanging out with friends, researching pet projects and generally having fun.
But when the money starts to drain away and the days between jobs turn to weeks or even months, it can really start to feel like the grinding, spirit-crushing kind of unemployment, the kind that can be tough to walk through.
If you’re in-between jobs, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way for doing unemployment well.
For me, worry comes when I’ve looked at my bank statement (again), tried to figure out how I will pay all the bills and gotten lost in the midst of the real numbers. Faith suddenly evaporates and panic sets in. This is normal, but the response is critical.
It can be difficult, but you really need to remind yourself of what you believe about God. God is sovereign and He loves you. He’s in charge of everything. You’re not even sovereign over the toaster.
So trust Him, because He knows what He’s doing. Scripture such as Job 38 and Psalm 33 can help you keep perspective.
When your heart is really trusting God and knowing that He’s got you safe in His hands, you are freed from the pressure of “I must find a job!” and all the endless “What if…” questions you ask yourself, like, “What if I never find a job? What if things don’t work out?”
When you really believe He’s in charge and you are not, you can rest in that knowledge, use your time well to do all you can do, and then let God take care of the rest.
Invest Your Time
When you’re in-between jobs, you may have more time than you know what to do with.
Try to stay in the routine of a nine-to-five life if you can. Obviously you want to be looking for work, rewriting your CV, calling people up and doing all you can. But in the midst of all that, think about ways to invest your time. Can you meet friends for lunch? Can you do some volunteer work? Can you learn new skills or refresh old ones?
Personally, I find the more time I can spend helping others, being productive and generally keeping busy, the less time I have to worry about money, work or the countless “what ifs” that like to crowd around the fringes of my brain.
In all the years I’ve been a freelancer, I can count on three fingers the number of times where my running around striving to conjure up work has actually paid off. The rest of the time, I’ve done what I could do, then just prayed and trusted God and work has rolled in. It doesn’t always come as soon as I wanted, but it always has come. God provides. He really does.
Remember Who You Are
As Christians, we all know our identity in Christ is who we really are; that God is our Father, that He loves us no matter what because of what Jesus has done for us on the Cross. We know that we can’t earn His love or approval; we’ve already got it unconditionally.
We know God doesn’t think any less of us when we’re unemployed, but that’s easier to believe when we do have a job. Then suddenly, when we’re out of work, our espoused theology and our functional theology start playing chicken on the motorway of our thoughts. Do I really matter to God? Maybe I’m a massive failure. I’m sure God must be disappointed in me. These are lies.
The truth is, I’ll never earn God’s love and approval by being good at what I do. Jesus has been good enough. He’s already done for me more than I could never do. I am loved. I am approved of.
Living this out in your heart is probably the hardest part about being unemployed, but also one of the most life changing lessons you could learn, unemployed or not.
Listen to God
Sometimes, becoming unemployed can be a hidden blessing. It can give you the freedom (and the time) to evaluate where you are going.
What do you want to spend your life doing that will count for all eternity? What do you love to do? What are you most passionate about? Go after those things. Be ready to hear from God, for wisdom, direction, for whole new God adventures you never thought of before.
I recently read this quote from an interview with billionaire and Hobby Lobby CEO, David Green, that I thought framed things well:
“Woolworth’s is gone. Sears is almost gone. TG&Y is gone. So what? This is worth billions of dollars. So what? Is that the end of life, making more money and building something? For me, I want to know that I have affected people for eternity. I believe I am. I believe when someone knows Christ as their personal saviour, I’ve affected eternity. I matter 10 billion years from now. Someone that does all this doesn’t matter. I’m sorry, it’s gone.”
Talk to people
I’ve never heard many people talk about being unemployed, but I know a lot of people who have been at one time or are right now. It really helps to talk to your friends, ask people for advice, get them to pray for you and be encouraged by their own testimony of God’s activity in their lives.
God is always doing something. Even if you can’t see what He’s doing, you can trust that He’s always doing something good. 1 John 1:5 says “God is light: in Him there is no darkness at all.” You can always trust His heart, even if you can’t trace His hand.
Jonny Elwyn is a freelance film editor living and working in London. He runs a blog on all things post-production, writes for PremiumBeat.com, and has recently published a popular ebook called How To Be A Freelance Creative. Check out his blog and the book at jonnyelwyn.co.uk or follow him on Twitter @jonnyelwyn.