Expert’s tip on joblessness: ‘God takes us through tests for our good’

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Len M. Allen, a business executive who endured a long bout of joblessness, explains how God uses unemployment for His glory and the benefit of the unemployed.

Joblessness in the United States is just above 8 percent, with the rate in my home state of Tennessee at 8.5 percent. The official numbers probably give a lowball figure for the true number of men and women seeking employment.

Len M. Allen, author of a book on how to survive long-term unemployment, says the number of frustrated job seekers is 25 percent of the workforce.

His handy paperback book Unemployed: Life in the Wilderness (Eloquent Books, 2010, 94 pages) describes itself as a “practical guide for living with unemployment.” Mr. Allen makes no effort in the book to help a reader find work. The market already has self-help advice books such as Job Wars: Confessions of a Corporate Recruiter and Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0.

Mr. Allen’s interest is the divine purpose in the tribulation of joblessness.

“I believe that as soon as the spiritual lesson is learned that, bang, God can give us a job in a heartbeat. That’s no big deal. But He waits until we learn. Maybe,” Mr. Allen laughs, “we have to wait to learn how to wait.”

Mr. Allen, who lives with his wife, Beverly, in a budget apartment in the North Shore area of Chattanooga, has learned hard lessons from three bouts of joblessness. The third stint was the longest — three years — and from that agony he came into the project of writing the book, encouraged by a weekly “men in transition” program by Christian Business Men’s Connection.

In trouble, couple shed assets

Mr. Allen is a former executive in the domains of retail, TV, radio and newspapers. He worked as the ad boss at Golden Gallon and had been engaged several years in Dallas and El Paso, Texas, as a minister.

The Allens lived prosperous lives, moving 28 times in the course of 39 years of marriage, chasing the money and the perks. “We had a lot of years where we made six figures — and spent more than we earned. We lived the typical American consumer lifestyle with all the toys and bells and whistles and beautiful houses and the pool and that sort of thing.”

The result of two spans of unemployment prompted the couple to jettison many of their earthly goods and to live lean and mean. In the middle of the last jobless gap the Allens moved to Chattanooga, where she found work as an executive secretary. He recently finished ghost writing a book for a Christian minister, and recently began drawing Social Security. The couple lives on F$30,000 a year, and lived so close to the bone they didn’t have chairs for guests in their dwelling until recently.

“He is totally capable of giving me a job any time He wants, and He just didn’t,” Mr. Allen says. “I would be one of the last two, and the employer would say, ‘We just decided to hire the other guy.’ and I’d say, ‘Well, the Lord isn’t giving me a job.’ Well, through that process, I was saying, ‘Why are you doing this?’ because I had learned the spiritual lessons the last time. When I was out for two years, I really went into the Word, studied a lot about what’s going on, what do I need to do. We began a process of decision-making to get simpler in our life and began paying off bills. *** I began to learn those lessons. While doing that, I spent a significant amount those two years ministering in Bible studies. I’ve always done a lot of that.

“So that this time when I became unemployed, I began to ask, ‘Why? Is the Lord trying to teach me new lessons?’ Everything was very much a review of what I’d already learned. When I prayed, I came up with the same stuff I’d already learned. **** And I came across 2 Corinthians chapter 1, that says God is a God of all comfort, and he comforts us with a comfort so that we can comfort others with the comfort we’ve been comforted with. That’s about the first half chapter. It struck me that perhaps God was allowing me to be free of work so that I could minister in this area of men who are unemployed. There were a lot of ‘em. This was three or four years ago, when [the recession] was really hitting. There were a lot of Christian guys unemployed.”

Mr. Allen’s main idea for the jobless

Mr. Allen said the greatest gift he gives his church and reading audiences is the promise in the scriptures that none of God’s children are alone or forgotten, and that if they are jobless it is part of God’s providential plan.

“With a Christian worldview, God is in charge,” he says. “If He wants you working in a job, you’re working in a job, if you’re willing. If you’re not working in a job and you’re willing to work in a job, He’s got a reason for you not to be.”

If a man is sinning, God may wrench him out of his job as a chastisement, he says. The sin could be an obsession with work, money or status — and neglect of family. But if a man cannot discern God chastising him, it may be God’s setting him up to learn a spiritual lesson. “Now it becomes a different question,” he says. “Now it’s not sin. You’re not judging; you’re teaching. You’re trying to get something across to me. What is that?”

The spiritual vice from which Mr. Allen was cleansed was anger. Joblessness, he says in the book, “can motivate us to more completely surrender our lives to God’s control and to seek His choice of blessing with the job He chooses to give us. We are warned to watch ourselves, watch our emotions, watch out for our anger. That can be a huge task when we’re suffering in the desert of joblessness.”


Sources

Len M. Allen, Unemployed: Life in the Wilderness (Eloquent Books, 2010). The book sells for about F$10 at Amazon. Mr. Allen can send you a copy from his website for F$13. His phone number is (423) 991-8056.

“Tennessee Unemployment Rates Down In 90 Counties, Up In 2 In August,” Chattanoogan.com, Sept. 27, 2012