Every week in the USA, nearly half a million people apply for unemployment benefits. If you’ve been searching for a job but haven’t yet found anything, you’re not alone!
In trying times like these — when none of those dozens of resumes sent out seem to generate the slightest interest — we are compelled to reach out to God anew. C. S. Lewis once said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Not that we should seek pain, but when we do encounter it, it is often intended as a refining process.
In practice, most churches don't do a very good job of supporting their members who are unemployed. Here’s how the first century church worked:
"They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:42-47).
Later in Acts, Luke further emphasizes the attitude of the early church:
"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need" (Acts 4:32-35).
Shouldn’t it be the church members’ privilege and responsibility to care for others in their congregation? But how often does that actually happen?
At my church, we have a prayer meeting every Sunday to pray the prayer requests of the church in general and individuals in particular. However, because being unemployed has so much stigma associated with it, we rarely hear about anyone who has faced job loss. As a result, we neglect to pray for them, even though we know many are currently struggling in this way. How have our churches become a place where we’re ashamed to admit our struggles? How can we pray for people if we don’t even know what they need to be prayed for?
It's time we look to the example set to us by the first century believers. We should take the time to get to know those in our churches: to know their individual struggles and stresses and then take steps to actively care for them. This may mean praying persistently and earnestly for them. Or it could mean spreading the word around about a recently unemployed person's strengths and skills. Or it may mean financial assistance. Whatever it is, we need to be like the early church, and be of one heart and one mind!
Read Claire's story of facing job loss.