Eight years ago, I lost my job. We had a huge mortgage on our house - and a large family to support. And in my field, there were very few openings. Everyone was cutting back on staff.
My eldest son is now in a similar position. He lives in California, where the dockers' labor dispute and related economic turmoil have torn apart the job market. He hasn't had steady employment for weeks and has phoned me several times a month to chat about his situation and how I coped with mine.
I have pointed out to him that my perspectives on work have always come from that tried and trusted source of inspiration, the Bible - and the only job listings I check are God's. Our conversations have been lively, and mostly reassuring. And we're both learning a lot.
The other day I suggested we talk about Psalm 90, which has often helped me. The Psalmist calls on God to "satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love." For me, acknowledging God's "unfailing love" is the starting point for sound reasoning in almost any situation.
The Psalmist continues, "May your [God's] deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children." My take on this is that we don't have to negotiate a contract with God. Good deeds are inherent in His nature. Our obligation is to join His work force and show His deeds to everyone by the example of our own lives.
Then the Psalmist makes a final appeal, laced with confidence in God's power: "Establish the work of our hands for us - yes, establish the work of our hands" (Ps. 90:13-17).
These petitions open up a wide range of ideas. My son and I agreed that for both of us, at any time, plentiful work is always there. Our hands could be poised. It is God - often viewed as the divine Mind - who establishes us in work that is less geared toward amassing dollars, rands, rupees, or yen, or whatever, than in blessing all humanity.
I have always found it helpful to use that synonym Mind when speaking of God. Time and again I have concluded that what I needed to do was understand and live wholeheartedly with the fact that God is the only Mind of the universe - and my only Mind.
I have reasoned that this Mind is intelligent and active. And through our relationship with this Mind, we express intelligence and activity in countless individualized ways. We don't have to fear that anyone will beat us to a job opening. No other servant of God can take our place or express Him in precisely the same way that we can.
When we are governed by our love for God's purpose and aren't trying to follow a personal course of our own, we are protected by God. He shields us from frustration and misdirection and vulnerability.
As we learn more about the purpose He has for us, we put ourselves out of the reach of depressing news reports about unemployment and economic hardship. Even in the competitive scrimmage caused by an unstable economy, we find that God has more than enough for us to do. In my case, it wasn't so much my hands that needed to get busy as my mind.
So, boldly I turned away from the familiar paths I had trodden for 25 years and asked myself how I might redirect my skills in order to help others. I resolved to stop measuring my progress in terms of salaries and fringe benefits, and concentrate on what I could give to others - even if I didn't earn a penny.
Soon afterward, a friend called and asked if I would like to teach English to foreign businessmen who came to the United States and lived for several weeks in the home of their teacher. I leaped at the opportunity to share my home with others and establish new friendships that blended cultures. Lasting bonds were established with those visitors, and the days swept by in meaningful employment for several months.
At the end of that spell of teaching, I was offered a modest but fulfilling job in a different division of my old company. I was thrilled. The job was creative and deeply satisfying, and I gave thanks for the way in which the "work of my hands" had been reestablished.
Now I'm waiting expectantly to see how God is going to guide my son. I have no doubt that he will find a niche. God's listings are as plentiful as His love for everyone. And the search for a better understanding of God's care for us brings opportunities beyond imagining.
Working and praying
with true motives,
your Father will
open the way.
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)