Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) worldwide are going through a difficult time because of unemployment. Whether from Africa or the US, the reality seems to cut across; the fact that they (millennials) happen to be more educated than earlier generations notwithstanding.
Some goals stated by millennials include travelling, accumulating material wealth, having zero debt and retiring early. In addition, most wish to keep a healthy lifestyle and find a real purpose in life. As for millennial Christians in business, as reported by DePaul University in its Journal of Religion and Business, they tend to consider people before profit. Most perceive themselves as called solely to advance the kingdom of God, something best achieved by creating value for others through work. However commendable their perceptions are, practising Christian millennials haven’t been excused from the painful effects of unemployment.
Jesus Christ, however, declared that he and the Father are always at work (John 5:17). Moreover, the institution of the Old Testament religion established a work-rest rhythm (Exodus 34:21) patterned after God’s very own behaviour at creation (Genesis 2:2). Both by inference (through the example our Savior himself set for us) and by command (Genesis 2:15), we are instructed to both work and rest (Genesis 2:2-3). What then should be our response when we can’t find a job, as is the present reality for many a millennial?
Trust and obey! as the beloved old hymn exhorts. We must trust that God works sovereignly and for our good. In addition, we must find ways to work (because we must) even when unemployed.
God is Sovereign Over Unemployment
There have been seasons in my life when I felt the effects of unemployment quite acutely. Sometimes, it would get so bad that I went for days without a meal. Often, I would wonder if God really cared about me. My pain was made worse by the fact that many around me who didn’t fear God seemed to fare on just fine (Psalm 73:3). Why should God even allow this? you might also be asking.
That such a question would even trouble your mind is in itself a good thing. There are moments in our lives when the only sign that we haven’t heeded the temptation to “Curse God and die” is how we pour out our laments to God. The only way that Job, though horribly afflicted by the Devil, could remain steadfast in his faith was by first being persuaded that no evil could befall him unless by the will of his heavenly Father (Job 2:10). To keep from despair and thereby pray ceaselessly for deliverance from affliction, we must attribute to God not only the power to heal but also the power to wound as well (Job 1:21).
There is never an instance that God does not work for the good of his children (Romans 8:28). But what is this good? This will largely depend on what one considers most precious. If your faith, whose genuineness God will often test through many a sorrow (1 Peter 5:7), is more valuable than gold that perishes, you will “Count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds (James 1:2). Somehow you will rejoice midst the sorrows attendant to unemployment. You might be short of food, clothing or shelter, but all as one who increasingly lacks in nothing (James 1:4)!
Poor as you might be in the sight of the world, you are, in fact, rich (Revelation 2:9). The world (the name, fame, rank, wealth, etc.) you may never gain, but you sure have all that matters if your soul is kept through faith: made the more steadfast by afflictions and trials.
Few Jobs, Plentiful Work
In plain biblical terms, idleness is a sin (2 Thessalonians 3:10-11). It does not image a God who we are shown at creation to be a worker, and neither is it consistent with a creature designed for work.
As much of creation as remains to be subdued, and as plentiful “good works” (Titus 2:14) as this groaning creation (Romans 8:22-23) craves, so abundant is the work cut out for us. Work is a question of obedience, making none of us exempt from the responsibility to work, employed or not.
There is work to be done in abundance, only that most people qualify work strictly through the lens of pay and career path. Such will then remain idle for as long as they lack an opportunity that offers them an income and the chance to do the exact vocation they were trained in school to do.
Even if we granted that we must all only do the very thing for which we trained, it is still the man who is skilled in his work who gets to stand before kings (Proverbs 22:29), not any other kind of man. But most millennials place the cart before the horse, supposing they are due some honour even though their skills are immensely questionable. They imagine themselves competent after only a handful of years in class, forgetting that it is years of patient practice that sharpen a skill. In their eagerness to make money quickly, they lose patience fast. Laziness adds on to their predicament. It is unwise to wait idly for the ‘perfect opportunity’. Anyone who does is a sluggard whose soul the Bible warns “desires but gets nothing” (Proverbs 13:4).
By all means, do not despair over that ‘ideal’ opportunity. Only ensure that as you wait, you work. In this take comfort: “The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever; they are not put to shame in evil times; in the days of famine they have abundance” (Psalm 37:18-19). Moreover, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:3). If indeed you would be “still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; [fretting not] over the one who prospers in his way” (Psalm 37:7), you would know the peace, whether employed or not; whether enjoying an abundance or less.