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How Can Good Come Out of Job Loss?

Have you ever lost your job? I have. It feels horrible.

My story isn’t one of rejection. I didn’t get fired, so much as the job I had no longer existed. The company chose to cancel a conference it was running, and I was its director. Since my role was no longer necessary, I no longer had a job. I didn’t get fired—yet it hurt just as much as if I had been.

When you’re in that situation, it’s hard to see any light at the end of the dark tunnel. It feels like your world is crashing down around you. You find yourself asking thousands of questions, whether in your head or out loud. How will I pay my bills? What’s next? What did I do to deserve this? How could they? Why would God allow this to happen? Will anyone ever want to hire me again after this failure? If you keep a cool head, you might avoid yelling and throwing things, but the anger will probably still be there.

I experienced all of that. The questions. The anger. But I also experienced something different. I call it “the hidden option”. I experienced hope for greater possibilities even though I couldn’t see the hope clearly.

I’m convinced that God can take everything negative in our lives and do something creative with it. In Genesis, the story was told of Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers. When the tables turned and Joseph triumphed in spite of their actions, he said this to them: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Gen 50:20 ESV) God took their evil and turned it to good.

 The thing is, I believe God has already created the opportunities for beauty in our lives. It’s up to us to find them. God seems to encourage us to be active and diligent in our search of both Him and His answers—and He promises to respond. In Matthew 7:7 NLT, Jesus told us, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” Could it be that God wants us to grow in our persistence and our dependence on him? Could it be that God has hidden possibilities in your life, and He wants you to keep digging for them?

When there seems to be nothing good in your job loss, I believe there are hidden options for what can come next.

I have a friend who had this experience when his world crashed down around him. He was a communications director at a large, internationally-known church. His pastor was caught in the middle of scandal, and it was his responsibility to defend both the church and his pastor. My friend did his best, but he experienced fiery arrows heading his way from every direction. News outlets even quoted him, skewing his words to further crucify the pastor and his church. It felt like a hopeless situation.

It got even worse when the pastor stepped down. The church dissolved, and my friend was left without a job. Not only that, he felt like he had a black mark on his name because of his involvement in the scandal. Who would want to work with a person caught in the middle of all that failure?

He candidly related his story to me over coffee one day, and I could tell he felt like that part of his life was a complete waste. He was doing his best to move past that situation and hoped to let that part of his life fade into obscurity.

I saw his pain, but I didn’t see that season of his life as a failure. In fact, I saw it as a stepping stone that God had prepared for him. He had first-hand experience of something that nearly every megachurch pastor fears. They all fear that one sound bite taken out of context. They fear the high-ranking leader in their church exposed for secret sin. That’s not something many pastors know how to even begin preparing for, which is where my friend enters the picture.

He saw his experience as something to sweep under the rug, but I saw it as something that could be used to help these churches. He could teach these pastors the things he did right and the things he did wrong. He could help them prepare for potential troubles and put plans in place for the worst-case scenario. Most churches value protecting their congregation from the media storm they’ve seen happen at other congregations, so it’s a service that would be in high demand.

As I shared my idea with him, I saw hope enter his eyes again. When I shed light on the hidden option, he became excited once again. When the world seemed to burst in flames around him, there was a brief clearing in the smoke that could suddenly help it all make sense again. The hope was there, he just needed some help to see it.

No matter the circumstance for your losing your job, I believe there is a hidden option out there for you. It’ll be hard to see it because of the emotions swirling around the situation. But if you’re willing to look for it, you can find it. Here are some ideas to help you find the hidden option when you can’t seem to find it.

  1. Ask God to show you the hidden options in this situation.
  2. Talk to someone who has been in your situation, has successfully navigated job loss or what seems like failure, and will encourage you. Ask them what they see for your life.
  3. Look for the thin glimmer of light, no matter how small, and move toward it.

Life isn’t over. Your ability to earn a living isn’t over. God can turn the situation around. I’ve seen Him do it in my life and in the life of my friends. I know He can do it for you too.

Is it Okay for Christians to Read Self-Help Books?

I have a confession to make: I write self-help books.

No “Christian Living category” author ever wants to admit that they write self-help materials. Surely our work is far more important than mere self-help. But when we examine the deep recesses of our souls, we have to acknowledge there’s a whole lot of self-help in the books we write.

I have a devotional called Created for More that helps creatives do better work while also tapping into their walk with God. Then there’s also The Hidden Option, a book that helps you make decisions when none of your options seem good.

Because I write self-help books, I’ve had to ask myself a couple of questions: Is it okay for Christians to read self-help books? Is it okay for me to write them?

The Bible doesn’t actually say, “God helps those who help themselves.” The truth is, that’s a phrase we invented because it sounds right. Nevertheless, if you walk down the aisles of a Christian book store, you’ll find tons of books from pastors and thought-leaders about learning how to help yourself. And these books sell like crazy.

I have a Christian friend who’s a self-help junkie. Every time I sit down to have coffee with him, our conversation inevitably comes around to a new author he’s reading and his thoughts on how to lead a successful life. “Have you read _______?” Or, “It’s like what ______ says . . .” I’m pretty sure my friend’s self-help book budget surpasses some countries’ GDP.

At the same time, I don’t see my friend making much actual progress in life. Each time I talk to him, he’s still struggling with the same insecurities and drama. And that’s the problem with self-help books. Self-help books don’t tell the whole story for believers.

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with reading self-help books. But if that’s where you leave it, you’re only getting part of the way there. It’s like watching the first Lord of the Rings movie, but not finishing the other two—and seeing Frodo ultimately destroy the ring (#spoileralert).

Any ounce of self-help might give us a little bit of progress in life—which is great—but there are greater things available to us. Scripture says “we can do all things”; now that seems to be a self-help start. But it doesn’t end there.

 

1. God gives us the strength.

In John 15:5, Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” That means only through God can we overcome obstacles and make a lasting impact on people. To be honest, I’ve had a hard time with this Scripture in the past. I know if the Bible says it, I should believe it. But I’ve also seen people who don’t even believe in God seemingly capable of anything. The human spirit and our capacity to achieve is far greater than we even know.

But acknowledging the source of that potential is the key to letting God work in and through us so that we can do more than what we dare ask or imagine.

 

 2. Only God can tell us the things worth doing.

The reason it’s so important to understand the source of our power—that it comes from God—is that potential is wasted when it’s put toward the wrong things. For instance, what’s the point of becoming the wealthiest individual in your city if you’ve left a trail of broken relationships in your wake? Or what good is having tons of influence if you just waste it on your own vanity?

Being able to accomplish anything I put my mind to is a nice idea. But what if everything I’m striving for is ultimately of no value? Only God can guide me into doing tasks that will make lasting impact.

Ephesians 2:10 says, “He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Self-help books can’t tell me what God has prepared for me to do.

 

3. Apart from God, we can only do human-sized things. With God, we can do God-sized things.

Finally, self-help books can’t tell you how you fit into the bigger story God is telling. What’s your role in the story of humanity? How depressing it is if your life only touches itself. But through God’s empowerment and direction, we can do things that will echo throughout eternity. Like the guy who stands up for injustice and infuses God’s perspective into the situation. Or the college student who invites her roommate to a Bible study—after showing months of unconditional love like Jesus does.

When we do our work intentionally for His glory, we get to showcase His splendor to the rest of the world. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” For me, that means my writing, though labeled tritely as self-help, can bring God glory—as I make Him the central focus of my books and not just a side note in a self-centered pursuit. One dumb book, written in Jesus’ name, can become a glorious thing. And the same is true for your life.

So yes, it’s okay for Christians to read self-help books. But if that’s all you’re doing, you’re missing out on something greater. Seek God for His direction and enablement, by praying and reading His Word.

Thank God for the strength He has given you, and ask Him where He wants you to direct that strength.

Are You Questioning What You Believe?

In my 30 years, I’ve never really questioned my faith all that much. I’ve wondered about evolution and about the problem of evil existing in the world. But they’ve just been simple curiosities; they didn’t rock my world.

Lately, however, I’ve found myself questioning what I believe. I wouldn’t call it a crisis of faith, but I have some legitimate questions that have been shaking me up a bit. All of this started in my most recent reading of the Bible. I’m not sure if it was because I’m reading it chronologically or because I’m reading with a more critical eye. But something was different this time.

As I read through the Old Testament, I began questioning the nature of God—He seemed pretty harsh sometimes. And in the Gospels, I noticed some of the stories didn’t seem to line up. How did the disciples report Jesus sweating drops of blood when they were supposedly asleep? And why did John report the story of the woman caught in adultery since it wasn’t in some of the earlier manuscripts?

Am I worried that I’m questioning what I believe? Not really. You see, I’m convinced questions and even crises of faith aren’t a bad thing. I believe each crisis and question is an opportunity for God to show us something unique about Him. It could be one small facet of His character that we have not seen before because we have not gone through this experience. We just have to navigate our questions with wisdom and skill.

Have you found yourself questioning what you believe? Try following these three steps, which have helped me come out from a crisis of faith—even stronger than before.

 

1. Don’t let emotions dominate.

Most crises of faith are sparked by a tragedy or God doing something that catches us off guard. Those things may spark the questions, but don’t let them dominate your emotions. Don’t let a negative emotion pull you away from your faith.

When tragedy strikes, we’re often quick to ask the question, “Why?” The problem is, there’s usually never a good answer for it. Even if God gave us the answer, it wouldn’t satisfy us because the pain is too great. Our emotions will almost always argue against the logic of a situation. For instance, I know God had great plans for me in spite of that one time when I lost my job. I’ve even seen the positive results. But the sting of rejection is still there, and I still am tempted to ask, “Why?”

Instead, it’s important to proclaim the truth of God. Rely on the fact that we know God is loving; He is good. As much as we can, set the emotions aside and be open to what we have learned and experienced in the past.

 

2. Lean into people. Don’t withdraw.

A natural thing to do when we start questioning our faith is to pull away from the church. Don’t do that. Stay rooted in your community. Take the step to reach out to people and ask your questions. Your pastor and the congregation can lead you to resources and answers to some of your toughest questions. That’s what the community of believers is all about. One part of the body helps the other.

Unfortunately, this sort of approach takes humility. We have to be willing to set aside how “spiritual” we look and tell people where we’re struggling. I’ve seen way too many people who appeared to be rocks in the faith, suddenly fall away from the church because it turned out they had hidden questions that were not dealt with. They were just too ashamed to ask.

Imagine what might have happened if they had let their pride down and leaned into their group of fellow believers.

 

3. Ask God to reveal Himself.

Finally, we have to realize there are some questions even C.S. Lewis can’t answer adequately for us. If our crisis of faith is a chance for us to see a side of God that few get to see, then few will be able to answer our questions. We have to lean on God for that.

I’m convinced that the fullness of God is revealed only in the thousands of different perspectives we see within the church. Just like Moses was only allowed to see a part of God’s glory—not His face—none of us can possibly comprehend the fullness of God on our own. Our questions and crises of faith might be the chance God will use to show us a side of Him few others see. We might just get a glimpse of a lesser-seen aspect of His glory.

 

Ask God to reveal Himself to you. He might not give you all the answers to all your questions. But God has a way of giving you peace in spite of your questions. Give God a chance to defend His name to you.

You don’t have to be afraid of questioning your faith. It holds up to questioning. Just make sure you’re giving God a chance to answer them.

I’ve found that my questions only enrich my faith even more as I lean on God and my history of belief in Him. I still have questions. But just as I can’t explain how my eyes work—the process of color and depth and response—I can still choose to see through them. And I have decided to see my life through the lens of faith, even when all the answers aren’t there.

I Didn’t Care About Starving Kids in Africa

It was Christmas morning. The whole family was together, even though most of the children were married and starting their own families. We were about to open presents.

There was only one thing on my wish list: a sharp chef’s knife. I wanted something that could slice through a tomato without squeezing out a single drop of its juices—a really good knife.

I unwrapped a few trifles and gift cards. But eventually I got to the box that I believed would contain what my heart desired. I carefully unwrapped the gift. I didn’t want to seem too eager. But my heart sank when I saw the box.

It was from Compassion International—an organization that helps impoverished children in developing nations. Oh great. My parents sponsored a starving African child in my name instead of buying me a real Christmas present.

I was so disappointed. But I prepared myself to feign genuine appreciation for the gift. I opened the box—ready to see what child they sponsored—only to realize that it was merely a container for the knife I wanted. It turns out that they hadn’t sponsored a child in my name. They just happened to have that box sitting around the house, and they used it make my gift easier to wrap.

You’d think I would have been happy, because I got what my heart so desired. But my internal dialogue shined a spotlight on an ugly truth about myself: I am desperately selfish. It wasn’t a fun realization.

I sat there through the rest of the festivities, disgusted with the revelation of my depravity. I thought I was a good guy. I thought I was generous. But in reality, my heart was thoroughly selfish.

As the gift exchange came to an end, I made a decision. I wouldn’t let selfishness rule in my heart anymore.

I went straight home. I opened my laptop. I Googled Compassion International, and I chose a child to sponsor. I had to uproot the weeds of selfishness in my life.

Since then, I’ve come to care about Dusabimana, my sponsored child from Rwanda. She recently learned how to read and write. I now receive letters in her penmanship which is, to my embarrassment, better than mine. Her recent letter suggested I read Proverbs 3:5-6. I love getting to see glimpses into her world and having her encourage me. I never thought that would be the result of something like this.

To be honest, I didn’t really care about her at the start. I sponsored her because I felt I needed to do something about my heart attitude. I couldn’t afford to have those attitudes inside me.

Jesus told us that your heart follows your treasure (Matthew 6:21). If I want my heart to be generous, I have to use my treasure generously. And even if I don’t feel generous when I part ways with that $38 per month, I know that my heart will eventually follow. And I’m happy to report that it has.

I’ve made decisions like these multiple times throughout my life. Whenever I sense an area of selfishness in my heart, I immediately pull out my chequebook. I don’t really care where the money goes. That isn’t the point. The point is that my heart needs to give.

I haven’t completely eradicated my selfish nature. Perhaps I never will while here on earth. But when I compare my heart now to my heart back then, I know I’ve made huge strides. My heart grows softer as the seeds I plant grow larger. I’m continuing to uproot the weeds of selfishness in my heart, and I’m seeing good things sprout up in its place.

 

This article was originally published here. This version has been edited by YMI.