January 5, 2009. My first day back at work after the Christmas holidays. Steve’s first day of unemployment.
My husband, Steve, an engineer, worked for a small, family-owned firm. Work had been slow throughout the fall, and the boss had toyed with the idea of cutting hours, but had put off that decision until after the holidays. Steve went back to work fully prepared to have his hours cut. Upon arrival, however, he and most of the staff learned that their jobs had been cut.
Steve called me shortly after 10 to give me the news. He had packed up his belongings already and was back at home. Fortunately, my job was still secure. Unfortunately, my job accounted for only 30% of our family’s income. At that moment, as shaken as I was by the news, I felt a strong sense of peace. My foundation was firm. God is my fortress; in Him I trust.
I took off the next day and provided moral support as Steve applied for unemployment and began a job search that held little hope of success. We took immediate steps to cuts our expenses. In God’s providence, we were about to become empty nesters. During the previous four years, we had helped to put our three sons through college, but we had just made the final college tuition payment for our one son still in college. With careful spending, we could survive on my salary and Steve’s unemployment. Money has been tight at times, but we have never lacked for anything we needed.
Steve’s unemployment benefits ended a few months ago. But by the grace of God, we have been able to not only pay all our bills, but have also managed to save some money. We know that we have it much easier than many other families who have been affected by long-term unemployment, and we are truly thankful. But, some days I despair that Steve may never have a job again. That’s not to say that I don’t benefit from his being home. Steve has taken over an ever-increasing share of the household chores. I look forward to coming home from work and being able to relax knowing that dinner is cooked, the shopping has been done, and clean clothes are hanging in the closet. After years of taking care of my family, it’s nice to be taken care of. I will miss these things when he finally does go back to work.
I read yesterday that unemployment benefits are running out before Christmas for 2 million Americans. My heart goes out to them, and I will remember them in my prayers.
We’re approaching the end of two years of Steve being unemployed, with no end in sight. Yet, every day we are reminded of God’s faithfulness. In many ways, this period of long-term unemployment of our family’s major breadwinner has been a blessing. It has reaffirmed that our faith is not in our government, the economy, or earthly systems. Our faith is firmly rooted in God. It has opened our eyes to how much we have and how little we truly need. When Steve goes back to work, we will have a better balance in the management of our household and our money. After all, everything we have is a gift from God. We want to do our best to honor Him by being the best stewards we can of all that He has given us.