With the benefit of hindsight, I’ve been processing all the thoughts and feelings from my 15 months of unemployment. Ironically, I think I am better understanding what was/is happening after last week’s spiritual formation lecture on spiritual dryness and “dark nights.”
First of all, I look back several years to when I left a secure job, earnestly desiring the opportunity to live by faith. God literally provided for every need, at every moment, and in six months I had another full-time job. (If interested, you can read all the accounts here.) I wonder now if that was was God providing his “consolation” – encouraging my small act of faith. Because while I thought I was finished, God wanted to dig deeper, to radically alter my views of faith and my spiritual life through an intense experience of “desolation.”
I went through five distinct spiritual phases in the past 15 months.
Phase 1: After being laid off, I started in a “careless” faith phase. Meaning, I had plenty of money and the confidence God would provide as he had before. So I had lunch with friends, went to movies, and nominally searched for jobs. I went through a 5-week spiritual formation series, and latched on to the concept of being open to whatever God was doing in my life.
Phase 2: Anxiety. I was going through my savings, and got more serious about sending resumes, searching the internet, and reminding God how the whole faith thing worked. Meaning, a. I have faith, and b. He provides. Occasionally he did provide something – friends sent money, gift cards arrived in the mail – brief reminders he was still there. I prayed for him to show me his purpose. I swear there was an entire week where every time I mentally complained about something, the words “That’s because you’re selfish” popped into my head. So not fun.
Phase 3: Ironically, just as I really picked up some steady, well-paying freelance work, I fell into a terrible depression. I felt I’d lost all identity, all credibility, all creativity, that I was useless and unwanted and I couldn’t see the end. All I prayed was, “God, don’t let go of me. Whatever it is you’re doing – finish it! Don’t let me go through all this and not be different on the other side.”
Phase 4: The Grind. Wherein by sheer force of will I got out of bed every day and did the next thing. I kept appointments. I wrote articles. I went to meetings. I’m ashamed to admit I resented being told what to do by clients but I did it anyway. God was providing, but I had to make myself keep going. Every. Day. And I made myself say the words, “God, I want to be open to what you’re doing.”
Phase 5: I have to call this “Acceptance.” And I know that sounds cliche, but here’s what happened. I never pronounced, “God, I ACCEPT this!” Just somewhere along the line I became more responsive to client directives. I took initiative in doing things. I remembered how fortunate I was to have continued to pay all my bills. I was busy and I was thankful. I can’t even tell you when it happened.
And that was about the time God provided a full-time job, which – while it’s still early – feels like a remarkable fit. I’m incredibly grateful, not just for the work, but for the opportunity to see God actively at work in my life. He let me see some ugly things about myself – without comfort – and now I see him changing them.
If you’re struggling through a difficult time, open your heart to whatever God may want to accomplish in your life. He’s less concerned about where we’re going or what we’re doing than who we’re becoming.