In the early nineties, my husband lost his job. We’d both been laid off before, but had always found work within weeks. This layoff lasted much longer than we ever imagined. He was unemployed or under-employed for almost 5 years.
I recall journal entries from that time: June, 1995:”Mike’s been laid off for 12-months. If we’d had a baby when this started, we’d have a rambunctious toddler by now.” December, 1995: “Mike’s still unemployed. The child would be talking by now.” June, 1998: “The kid’s 3– a real brat–will this ever end?”
Lengthy unemployment terrified us. Would we lose the house we’d closed on two weeks before he received the pink slip? Would our 3 children go hungry? Would our eldest daughter be able to start college, as we’d planned? How could we pay the bills on my income alone? The stresses proved to be more than we could handle. Relying on our own best efforts left us depressed and hopeless.
Through prayer and Bible study, we found inspiring Bible verses that strengthened us.
“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4
This verse reminded us that the Bible is more than just another self-help book. It’s the living word of God. From its pages, we indeed found hope.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
Meditating on this verse strengthened us. It reminded us that God promises to be with us through anything. Even though the layoff was gut-wrenching and lasted much longer than we thought, we learned to trust God. The pressures didn’t let up for a long time, but we handled them better. We learned to endure and to wait on God.
Two inspirational Bible scriptures, from Exodus, bolstered our faith and made the Bible come alive for us.
(The Pharaoh commanded) 7 “You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. 8 But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota.”
When we read this, we felt like we were living the story of the Israelites and the Egyptians. Our principle source of income had been cut off (our straw), yet we were expected to meet our obligations (make the same number of bricks) as we always had.
One week, a bill collector wanted a big payment. My husband politely told him he’d be happy to make the payment, with 1 stipulation. The bill collector would have to invite us over for dinner every night for a month. We couldn’t afford both his payment and our groceries. That’s how outrageous “making bricks without straw” becomes. We found little mercy in the world.
As we kept reading about the trials of the Israelites, we came to another inspirational Bible verse.
“I am the Lord.” Exodus 6:2
We instantly understood that just as God knew the plight of the Israelites, He knew our family’s plight. Our job was to trust God, to endure, and wait on Him. While waiting on God, we developed greater understanding of the plight of others.
(God of all comfort) who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 2 Corinthians 1:4
At the time, I taught life skills to residents of a homeless shelter. One afternoon, while driving to teach the class, I felt totally exhausted mentally and physically. It was mid-July and my car’s air conditioning had gone out. In addition, I was grieving the loss of my mother, who’d died the month before.
When I arrived at the shelter, I didn’t think I had enough strength to move from the car. By the grace of God, I did get out. I went into the classroom, where I served coffee and pastries to my students.
When I stood before them to teach, I felt an incredible compassion wash over me. I knew what it was like to be unfairly labeled by circumstances, to feel rejected and weighed down by shame, to not fit in. I knew, from our experiences, that they needed what we needed: compassion, mercy, and understanding.
I said, “I want you all to know something. I know that your time at this shelter is a tiny slice of your life. You all have families. You all have a history. I’m interested in you as a person. Your value isn’t defined by homelessness.”
One man openly wept. He told me he’d been a song writer in Nashville. He became addicted to alcohol and lost everything. He said, “I’m gonna get better. When I get back to Nashville, I’m going to write a song about this day.”
Another man, also struggling with addiction, told stories about a beloved grandson that he hadn’t seen in years. A woman said she suffered from severe job burn-out. For many years, she worked as a caretaker for the elderly. When she realized she didn’t have the patience she once had, she quit her job. She said she knew she’d hurt someone if she didn’t.
By the time the class ended, we all felt revived. A class member said, “We’re so proud of you. We can see the spirit all over you.”
In truth, all I did was show up. God did what I couldn’t do. His compassion extended to me, and through me, in ways I’ll never forget.
In 1999, the layoff finally ended. My husband received an incredible job offer based on a resume he’d submitted 2-years before. It took several more years to fully recover financially. Most of the things we feared would happen, didn’t happen. Our daughter went to college, we didn’t lose our house, and our kids didn’t starve. We did experience many unpleasant circumstances and complications. In God’s timing, He brought us through each one.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
None of us get through this life without difficulties, but we don’t have to go it alone. We have hope in Jesus Christ, if we’ll receive him, and encouragement through inspirational Bible verses, if we’ll believe them. It’s all a matter of faith.
Sources: Oxford NIV Scofield Study Bible; Personal Experience