Commanded to Be Still: Facing Unemployment During a Pandemic

Written by Claire Avidon
Published on April 17, 2020

As COVID-19 continues to sweep the face of our nation (and world), many of us sit at home grappling with the realities of the pandemic. At this point, we might be settling into a new pace of life—as best we can. We might be establishing new rhythms to accommodate at-home-learning and remote working conditions.

We may perhaps be relearning how to engage with our spouses and children, as we spend every waking moment together. We might be exploring how to enjoy the forced slower cadence of our days. 

But we also might be facing anxieties and uncertainties associated with unemployment, the loss of a loved one, and the struggle to cope with the vast changes that so quickly disarmed people across the world. 

Our everyday routines have been dismantled and our sense of security has been unraveled. We are grieving the lives we once lived. 

A pandemic of unemployment

In an interview with former BBC journalist, Damian Fowler, David Blustein, professor of counseling psychology at Boston College, speaks to the current unemployment happenings surrounding COVID-19: “This is going to be a global pandemic of unemployment…I call it a crisis within a crisis.” 

As if facing the uncertainties with regards to life and death is not enough, add in the loss of a job. Psychologically, unemployment has been compared by experts to the grief of losing a loved one

The emotions surrounding job loss take time to digest. It is critical to our well-being that we acknowledge these emotions and grant ourselves the time, space, and grace to process our feelings. 

Grief affects every aspect of our being—physically, cognitively, emotionally, and spiritually. Left unchecked, psychologists have found it to negatively impact each of these areas, resulting in anxiety and stress.

Meet anxiety with Scripture

In “Anxiety, Waiting and the Coronavirus,” Alasdair Groves implores us to think about how we respond to our anxieties and grief. He encourages his readers to turn to God’s word. Groves wisely explains: “Scripture knows the fear of impending danger intimately and speaks to it repeatedly.”

The journalist parallels this season of waiting, this quarantine during a pandemic, to the book of Joshua. We are very much like the people of Israel, sitting and waiting for the Jordan River to part.

What we see: tumultuous, murky, often scary waters ahead. We see a swiftly flowing, dangerous river our families will soon be required to cross. Our stomachs drop as we survey our lives and question how we will continue to pay our bills, from where the funds to buy groceries and essentials will come, and by what means we will be able to invest in our children’s current lives, let alone their future. 

What God asks us to see: his provision is perfect and his promises stand firm.

A call to inaction 

Like the wayward Israelites, our hearts question and doubt God at the first sign of hardship. And when that hardship really sets in, anxiety and fear can overcome us. 

But friends, this season is not meant to be easy. We aren’t meant to simply throw our hands up in the air and carelessly laugh at the happenings around us. I believe with all of my heart that these times are a call to action from God. Or rather, a call to inaction. 

What I am hearing in my quiet time: “Child, be still. No really Claire, please rest and let me work.” 

There is nothing we can personally do to stop this pandemic, aside from following guidelines and directives to stay home. (Unless you are working in an essential field. And if you are, thank you. Thank you for everything you are doing to serve our communities, country, and the world at large.)

But if you are home and facing unemployment or the potential for job loss, hear me now. Seize this moment to cherish your loved ones. Hold on tight to your Creator. Take advantage of the benefits our leaders have laid out to meet you where you are. And lean really hard into God. That last part is the most important. Lean. Into. Him. 

And remember that this season is just that, a season. It will not last forever.

So here we are, waiting at the banks of the Jordan River. And like the Israelites were commanded by Joshua: “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God,” we too are commanded to listen and see him (Joshua 3:9). 

We are commanded to stay home by our leaders, and we are commanded to be still by our Father.

Fear of uncertainty

God so often meets us in different ways than we would imagine or prefer. But the outcome is always better than our minds could fathom. My husband lost his job last summer. We were on vacation with my family. I was six months pregnant with twins and staring at my then one-year-old son when the news came. 

I don’t think I will ever forget that moment. My eyes immediately flooded, my heart sank, my stomach dropped, and my mind raced. How would we support three children? How could we afford insurance for a family of five? How could we possibly move forward?

We were in the middle of building a home. We lived in the lake-front real estate development for which my husband sold properties. We had expensive homeowner dues and property taxes to cover. And to top it off, I had recently resigned from my job and taken on a very part-time position as chapel coordinator at our local church. 

The stages of grief

It took me a good twenty-four hours to process the news. Like a quintessential cliché, I moved through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, and depression. 

I denied the truth of it. Maybe they made a mistake. Michael worked harder that year than he ever had before. I was so proud of him! 

I was angry. How dare them try to belittle my husband’s work ethic. He is an outstanding agent and an even better human. He committed himself wholly to their cause. How could they just drop him without a single thought, and via email at that?

I started problem solving. Maybe we could speak with his employers and work it out. Maybe there was some sort of misunderstanding we could mitigate.

And then, I struggled with great sadness. Not a sorrow for myself, but grief for my husband. I see the way he toils with the weight of providing for our family. I see his desire for provision in almost everything he does. And I knew the immense burden this would place upon his shoulders. 

A daily surrender

But the part that came next, it was the most unexpected blessing. We sat together. Michael and I grabbed a cup of coffee and sat on the upper deck of my grandparent’s lake house in Michigan. We worked through the what if’s. I cried, Michael mourned in his own way, and we sat in the truth of it all. 

Then, with deep breaths and still heavy hearts, we decided that whatever came next, God had it and our job was simply to follow. It was a daily surrender, but we walked in trust and worked hard to not look back. 

As I sit here and type these words, I am humbled all over again. The monitor buzzes as it switches between my three napping children. The twins are now six-months-old and Asher is almost two-and-a-half. I have been blessed with my dream job, and Michael has thrived as an independent realtor. God has provided in bigger and better ways than we could have ever comprehended. 

And although, in light of the pandemic and all it presents, Michael has had numerous significant contracts fall through, we know that God is greater than anything we face. We understand that we are commissioned to simply rest in his promise. And we are prepared with the practical steps and Scripture-based discernment to push through this season ahead—whatever it might entail.

Ten steps to practically cope with job loss

Let me share with you what we have learned along the way. These ten practical steps have served us well during job uncertainty and loss. We hope they will speak to you in your time of need as well.

  1. Respect what you can and cannot control.
  2. Practice practicality: Reduce household spending.
  3. Embrace change and acknowledge that this season will likely be hard (but remember, it isn’t forever).
  4. Communicate: share your struggles, emotions, and frustrations.
  5. Honor your loss.
  6. Cling to the hope of future opportunity.
  7. Rest in the comfort that you are not alone.
  8. Stay informed about the resources available to you.
  9. Most importantly: sit in silence and meditate on God’s word, choose gratitude and joy (Psalm 62 carried us through Michael’s job loss). 
  10. Consider a daily schedule (see example schedule below).

When we allow ourselves silence in the presence of our Father, we allow him to breathe peace and calm into our souls, instill confidence for the anxieties of tomorrow, and strengthen us against the hardships of today.

Realize that you are not alone. Grasp on to God and his promises. Rest in all that he provides. You’ve got this, but more importantly—so does he.

Below outlines an example family schedule. Keeping some sort of regular routine can help guide a sense of purpose and prevent a downward spiral into anxiety.

7 a.m. Contemplative prayer with the Lord. Journal, drink coffee, read the Bible, and pray.
7:30 a.m. Make the bed and get dressed.
8 a.m. Family breakfast.
8:30 a.m. Chores. Laundry, put away dishes, tidy-up.
9-10 a.m. Get outside. Walk, play, inhale fresh air.
10-11 a.m. Academic time. Learn something new. Read an educational resource. Assist children with remote learning.
11-12 p.m. Get creative. Build something, draw or paint something, write, journal, sing, dance, whatever suits you!
12 p.m. Family lunch.
1-3 p.m. Work on a household project. This time is yours. If you have littles, they are napping! If you have big kids, this time might be devoted to online curriculum.
3 p.m. Family snack.
3:30-4 p.m. Afternoon academics. Help children with school related activity, allow an educational children’s show or screen-time application, listen to a TED Talk, podcast, or read an insightful article.
4-5 p.m. Afternoon outdoor activity. Bikes, hikes, the sky is the limit.
5 p.m. Dinner prep. Make dinner as a family!
5:30 p.m.  Family dinner.
6:30 p.m. Clean-up. Wrap up chores. Take baths. 
7:30 p.m. Bedtime for the children.
10 p.m.  Bedtime for everyone else.

Adapted from Jessica McHale’s COVID-19 Daily Schedule.

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Claire Avidon

Claire Avidon is a wife, mother, and friend who seeks to enjoy the richness of life to the absolute fullest. As a mother of three under three, Claire strives to be still in the moment and absorb the sweet moments of parenting littles. Her husband (Michael) and children, Asher (2), Liam (3 months), and Harper (3 months), reside at Possum Kingdom Lake, Texas.

Read more about Claire

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