When you’re on the other side looking back, how do you want to have handled it?
By Jayna Richardson
I was sitting at my desk on a Thursday afternoon typing some notes for my manager when I saw my cell phone flashing, indicating that I had a voice mail. I glanced at the screen on my phone and realized I had missed several calls from my husband.
I listened to the message: “Hi, it’s me. Give me a call. Bye.” That was it.
Immediately, my heart started pounding. I knew something was wrong. I called him back and got him on the first ring.
“Are you okay? What’s going on?” I asked.
“Well, nothing now,” he said bitterly.
“I just lost my job.”
I was in shock. What would we do? I didn’t need to crunch the numbers to know we couldn’t survive on my salary alone. But as concerned as I was for our financial situation, I hurt more for the pain I knew my husband must be feeling.
“Are you okay?” I asked quietly, trying to keep my voice from shaking.
“Not really,” he said.
“I’m coming home,” I told him. I felt I needed to be with him to comfort him and show him that we would weather this storm together.
And we did weather the storm. My husband was out of work for about three months. We went through several ups and downs in those three months and experienced every range of emotions on the spectrum. But God used those difficult months to teach us some lessons about working through hardship and to bring us closer together as a couple. Here are some of the lessons we learned.
1. Take every chance you have to comfort and support each other. Job loss can be emotionally devastating. Don’t waste any energy dwelling on the “should haves” that might have prevented it. Instead, reaffirm your love, support, and commitment to your spouse. You are a team going through this together. Don’t make the situation any worse by snapping at each other or retreating into isolation.
When I got home that day, I hugged my husband long and hard. I let him decide how much or how little he wanted to talk about it. I told him I loved him and that we would be okay. That night, we had a particularly sweet time of intimacy. It was another way for me to reaffirm my love, respect, and support.
2. Don’t let yourselves become bitter. Harboring bitterness will destroy all of your joy in life. Make a conscious effort to keep a positive attitude. Your attitude is contagious—if you’re a raincloud, your spouse will begin to feel negative and gloomy, too. If you maintain a healthy perspective, you can raise your spouse’s positive outlook considerably.
You and your spouse may also need to examine your hearts to make sure that you are not holding a grudge against someone (such as a former employer). God commands us to forgive others for our own good. An unforgiving attitude can eat us up inside and prevent us from moving forward.
3. Look at this as an opportunity to grow. It’s always encouraging to look back on tough situations I’ve gone through and notice how God had His hand on me the whole time, even though I may not have realized it then. But when I’m in the midst of a difficult situation, I’m so quick to feel abandoned.
In the days and weeks after my husband’s job loss, I remember thinking, Where are you, God? Don’t you see what we’re going through? Don’t you care? Now, looking back, I wonder why I didn’t have the faith to just trust God. Of course He saw us! Of course He cared! But it’s so much easier for me to say it now that we’re past that difficult time. Hopefully this experience has strengthened my faith so that I’ll respond better when the next trial comes along.
You will get past this stage. When you’re on the other side looking back, how do you want to have handled it?
4. Trust in God’s provision together. If you don’t already pray together as a couple, going through job loss and financial difficulties provides a great time to start. Pray together for God’s provision. Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” It doesn’t get any plainer than that—God will provide for your needs. Do you trust Him to fulfill His promises, or not?
God provided for us in amazing ways. The exact same day my husband lost his job, we received an unexpected check for $500 in the mail. It was like confirmation to us that God would take care of us. He is always faithful.
5. Reprioritize your life. My husband lost his job just a few weeks before Christmas. Even though gift giving and parties and decorations aren’t the point of the holiday, we were pretty bummed that our plans were all out the window.
God used my husband’s job loss to force us to have an un-materialistic Christmas. And you know what? It was great. We still exchanged gifts (on a much smaller scale than we’d planned) and had a wonderful Christmas dinner with my parents, but it was probably the most stress-free, Christ-focused Christmas I’ve ever experienced. God used that Christmas to show us how materialistic we are and how far we had strayed from the true meaning of Christmas.
Use this time to evaluate your life and the way you’ve been living. Ask God to show you any areas He wants to work on. You might as well keep your hardship from going to waste!
6. Realize it’s not the end of the world. Going through job loss can cause us to become very self-focused. We were tempted to ignore everyone else’s problems and retreat into our own bubble of worry. But as God worked on my heart, I developed a deeper sense of thankfulness for my wonderful husband, our good health, family and friends who love us, and much more. The more I thought about my life, the more convinced I became that God had truly blessed us abundantly. Even financially, we were rich by worldly standards. We had a roof over our heads, enough food to eat, cars to drive, and clothes to wear—making us wealthier than at least 75 percent of the world.
During those three months, we continued our regular tithing and our additional support for an orphanage in Nepal. I realized that no matter how bad things got for us, our situation would still be better than what those children were facing every single day. We certainly didn’t lack any basic necessities. I think God honored our faithfulness not only by providing for us, but also by giving us joy in the midst of these circumstances.
A better relationship
It is possible for you to come out of this trial with a stronger marriage and a more intimate relationship with God. I’m so thankful that God is the master of taking difficult situations and using them for good. Your situation may be much more dismal than ours turned out to be. But the God who sustained us through this small trial will sustain and provide for you as you seek and obey Him.
This article originally appeared in the June 15, 2009 issue of Marriage Memo, a weekly e-newsletter. To subscribe free to Marriage Memo and other FamilyLife e-newsletters, click here. For the Marriage Memo archives, click here.