The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about global economic instability unlike anything we’ve seen in decades. Governments around the world have poured trillions of dollars into saving jobs—but the United Nations estimates that more than 200 million people worldwide will still lose their jobs this year.

What can we do when we, too, become a part of these statistics?

Unemployment can be a stressful and difficult experience. And because so many aspects of our lives are tied to our work, job loss affects us not only financially, but also emotionally, socially, and even spiritually.

Let’s take a look at how we can cope with each aspect of job loss:

1. The Emotional Roller-Coaster

Each person responds differently to the loss of a job. Most of us will start off deeply worried, as we will face immediate concerns about paying our loans, and meeting other financial obligations. Some of us have the additional burden of children in school or elderly parents with special health needs. It can be an excruciatingly heavy load to bear.

You might find some, if not all, of these questions familiar:

  • What am I going to do now?
  • How am I going to pay my bills?
  • How will I feed my family?
  • Will I be able to find another job?
  • How do I get another job?
  • How long will it take?
  • Can I make the same pay in another job?
  • Where is God in all this turmoil?

From the outset, it’s important to understand that job loss will inevitably put you onto an emotional roller-coaster ride. In a life disruption this severe, there will be radical ups and downs. It would be naive to think differently.

There will be plenty of frustrations and rejections, mixed in with great hope, possibilities, and aspirations. The emotional yo-yo will continue as you deal with the daily strain of looking for a new job. Each time you finally make it to the interview stage, you must also be prepared for the reality that you may not be successful. Then it starts all over again.

There is one more important question to address in this time:

How do you view yourself in this job loss?

The job market today is vastly different from what it used to be. There used to be certain stigmas and misunderstandings about people who were jobless—some might assume that we couldn’t hold on to our jobs because we had done something wrong, and were not good enough.

Today, however, losing our jobs should not be seen the same way. Unemployment comes because companies have to cut costs in an uncertain and competitive world—and COVID-19 will only make it worse. Many good people are now out of work. And, unfortunately, it’s going to be that way for quite some time.

2. The Social Stress

As if the emotional struggle isn’t difficult enough, we also have to deal with the stresses of relationships being affected by job loss, and deal with more challenging questions such as:

What do you tell your family?

One major and immediate concern for many people who lose their job is how to go home and tell their spouses, children, parents, and close friends.

Keep in mind that how you tell them will often dictate their response. For example, if you share this news in an emotional and angry manner, using dramatic language, this may influence their response. If you’re too emotional, it may upset them unnecessarily and perhaps lead to more issues. It’s vital to carefully think through the words, tone, and emotion behind what you are going to say before sharing the news.

The key thing is to be as genuine and objective as possible while telling a painful and sad story. It may be helpful to make a phone call before leaving work to say something like, “I’ve just gotten some bad news. The company is going through some changes and they don’t want me to be a part of it. I’ll be home shortly and we can talk. I’ll share more details then.” That phone call simply gives the information. It doesn’t set off an emotional chain reaction.

When I lost my job, I waited about 20 minutes before I called my wife. It’s a difficult call to make, but you have to walk your loved ones through this loss one step at a time. And you need to let them know that you’re okay, even though you’re hurting.

Sometimes, it may be best not to tell your entire family at the same time. Consider talking to your spouse (or parents) privately first, so that you can discuss it and begin this difficult journey together.

When you initially share the bad news, let your loved one hear it from an attitude of calm and control rather than panic. You might want to say something like, “We will survive. It’s going to work out because God is with us. Let’s look at this as an opportunity to begin a new chapter in life. Who knows what good things are awaiting us?”

A career contains many phases and steps—and sometimes several stops. A particular job is just one step in a career. In today’s job market, the chances of us putting in 10 or more years at a particular company is becoming increasingly uncommon.

What do you tell others?

After talking to those closest to you (and who depend on you), do consider carefully whom you share the news with next. If you need to vent, do that with a person you trust deeply.

This is because not everyone may respond in a way that is helpful to you. You may hear comments like, “Have you found a job yet?”, or, “I thought you would surely have gotten a new job by now.” You’re already hurting, and then somebody makes an insensitive comment that hurts even more.

Some people may not realise (or care) how hurtful their comments might be. Or, they may genuinely be trying to encourage you but may unintentionally make awkward or discouraging remarks like, “Oh, that company wasn’t going anywhere anyway. You ought to be thankful you’re out of there.”

Regardless of the motive behind the comment, it still hurts. But it’s best to give people the benefit of the doubt and try to move on, instead of trying to defend or explain yourself.

3. The Spiritual Challenge

When facing the challenges of a job loss, many people wonder about God’s part in it all. They wonder if God cares. It makes them question God and themselves. When I lost my job, I had to ask myself the following questions:

What do I expect from God in all of this?

As a Christian, I learned a different approach to the problem I faced. My faith and my outlook in life put my job loss in a different light. I could legitimately ask the question, “What do I expect from God?”

Ultimately, I trust that God is going to take care of me. Whether it’s a job loss, a death in my family, or an illness, I believe that I am still in God’s hands. This faith keeps me balanced and gives me the ability to trust God without continually questioning why He allows things to happen to me.

Sometimes, God may tell us why, but often He doesn’t. As a human with limited understanding, I’m never going to fully understand the eternal, limitless God or His ways. But I believe that whether in life or in death, He will take care of me. So, I try not to allow myself to drown in the “whys.” Instead, I try to say, “What can I learn from this?”

Through the struggles of life, I hope my faith will be strengthened and I will be able to move forward with improved perspectives and a deepened faith in God.

What do I expect of myself in all this?

God has made me “wonderfully” (Psalm 139:14). I knew I had to start looking for a way to use the talents and skills He gave me. I needed to look forward, not backward.

I also knew that I was in the backseat and that God was in charge. In fact, this experience renewed my dependence on God. There have been times when I felt more independent and assumed that I could make things happen on my own. But my job loss reminded me of my utter dependence on God.

It’s a balancing act. God is in the driver’s seat and I know He will provide for my needs. But I also know that I have a responsibility to work hard at what I am trying to accomplish.

In the end, however, God doesn’t expect us to resolve all the issues immediately or to solve every problem today. He simply expects us to do our best and to trust Him. He promised us:

Never will I leave you; nor will I forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)

Adapted and excerpted from Now What? The Healing Journey Through Job Loss © 2009 Our Daily Bread Ministries.

Chuck Fridsma is a former career management consultant and counsellor.