Uncertainty in Life

“Hear me, Lord, and answer me,Question mark

for I am poor and oppressed.

Preserve my life, for I am loyal;

save your servant who trusts in you.

You are my God; pity me, Lord;

to you I call all the day.”

(Psalm 86: 1-3)

Uncertainty, it is a word that is definitely in the lexicon of any worker in the American workplace.  It is especially true for anyone who suddenly finds himself or herself laid off from the job, unemployed.  There was a time that the longer you were with a particular company or firm, the more certain you were that your position was reasonably safe.  In today’s business world, that is no longer the case.  Five years or nineteen years on the job, we all can find ourselves escorted out of the office, with our personal belongings in a box or bag.  We all can be standing on the street, wondering, what next?  We all can be struggling with the sudden loss of certainty in our lives.

I was laid off in January, 2015, and I have been on the job search since then.  I have been scanning the Web, looking at online job boards, filling out electronic job applications, and sending them out.  Checking my e-mail box daily, and hoping that the phone will ring; and so far there have been no hits.  I get dressed up and go to job fairs; I walk around scanning the tables.  If I am lucky, I might find one table that offers possible positions that match my knowledge and experience.  So I leave a resume, and hope for a call.  In the meantime, my wife and I are taking steps to reduce the draw on our resources.  So what our lifestyle will be in the future is also uncertain.

There can be so much uncertainty in one’s life, that it can wear a person down, and there are times that I can identify with the psalmist who the above words.  These are the times when I turn to prayer, to reflection on Scripture, reflecting on the beauty of God’s Creation, to let a little light in, and experience some hope, some peace; the peace that comes only from God.

Praying Before the San Damiano Cross

Most High, Glorious God,

Enlighten the darkness of my heart,

And give me true faith, certain hope,

And perfect charity, sense, and knowledge,

Lord, that I may carry out

Your holy and true command.

(Prayer before the San Damiano Cross – Saint Francis of Assisi)

Francis and San Damiano CrossOnce a month, I go into Boston, MA, for a meeting with my spiritual director; who is a Franciscan friar at St. Anthony Shrine on Arch St.  I was crossing that street, on my way for my July session, when I ran into two of my former co-workers.  We exchanged pleasantries; I learned that the company was still having a rough time of it.  We said our goodbyes, and I entered the Shrine.  Now this all took place on July 7th, I was entering the seventh month of unemployment.  I have been sending electronic job applications, three to six of them on a weekly basis.  To date, I have had two telephone interviews, each lasting, on average, about fifteen minutes.  I have been to several job fairs, left resumes with prospective employers; never heard anything back.  Life is getting a little “interesting.”

Usually, when I enter the first floor chapel of the Shrine, I go to the left side, where the tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament.  That day I went to the right side of the chapel, where in the sanctuary is a statue of St. Francis of Assisi, praying before a large representation of the San Damiano cross.  The original cross was in the Assisian chapel of San Damiano, where a young Francis went to pray.  The origins of the cross are shrouded in mystery, but it is made in the Byzantine icon style.  Praying before the cross, Francis heard the voice of Jesus speaking from the cross: “Francis, rebuild my church!”  The rest, as they say, is history!

I seated myself before the large replica of the San Damiano cross, and began to pray, saying over and over the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  I was focused on the face of the Crucified Jesus.  I was drawn to the eyes, which are unique.  I cannot describe the experience, only to say that at that moment, I was in a different space.  The anxieties, the concerns, the worries, suddenly disappeared from my consciousness, if only for a moment in time.  A light dispelled the darkness that was in my heart.

Many of us, perhaps most of us, when times get tough, will pray to God for some kind of miracle that will solve all of our problems.  Usually we are hoping the Lord will influence the interviewer, or we will win the Lottery!  And miracles can happen, will happen, and does happen!  But what we can really hope; what we need to be aware of is that we are never alone.  We may be carrying a burden, but we do not carry it alone.  Jesus calls us to take up our crosses daily, and follow him.  The One who carried his cross to Calvary, knows our suffering, knows what pains, and fears weigh us down.  He is walking with us, encouraging us onward.  His Spirit is within us, filling us with peace, with hope.  We need only to keep our hearts; our souls open to that light.  And hear Jesus assure us, that over that dark hill of Calvary, a new dawn does await us!

Still Unemployed; Still Searching

Job SearchWell, I have been unemployed for about 3 ½ months now.  I am coming very close to the end of my severance pay.  I have been doing all the things I am supposed to do to qualify for Unemployment Assistance.  I have been sending out my resumes, hoping to hook one interview.  And the clock keeps ticking!

The last time I was laid off from a job was a little over twenty years ago!  Back then, the company I worked for provided outplacement sessions, with a counselor.  The state maintained its own unemployment assistance offices, where you had to go to each week.  While there, you applied for the next week’s benefit; presented a log of your job search activities, and was able to resolve any issues with a real human person in front of you.  While you there, you could check the hard copy listing of job openings, and schedule time on some of the center’s computers.

Now, everything is either done online, or over the telephone.  The company hired an outplacement specialist, who worked with me by phone and e-mail.  The state no longer has its own branch office, but has contracted with non-profit Career Placement agencies, to provide training on how to search for jobs online, using social media, and opportunities to improve one’s computer skills.  You now have to set up an online account with Unemployment Assistance, to make benefit requests, and keep track of your benefits.  If you need to speak with a human person, it is over the telephone, and depending on your Social Security Number, you are limited to a particular day to call.  Instead of searching the newspapers, you job search on-line; sites like: Monster, Indeed, and Simply Hired, become familiar names to you.  Companies now ask that you submit your resumes and cover letters via the Web.  There is no address to send a letter to; there is no name or telephone number to call for a follow-up.  You just get a form e-mail, confirming the receipt of your electronic job application.

I spend my mornings checking the online job search sites, and I get e-mails from them with job listings.  I have sent numerous electronic applications, and attended some job fairs.  And I have not gotten a single bite.  Come the end of May, the financial situation is going to get very tough.  My wife and I are examining possible options, her parents and our siblings have been helping out, and are brainstorming ways to help us through this.  Still, I am finding it harder and harder to sit myself in front of the computer.  And I will admit that depression, and yes, fear is reaching out for my soul.

In moments like this, I turn to prayer, whether in solitude, during the celebration of the Eucharist, or in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  And I have turned again to the Psalms:

In you, Lord, I take refuge;

Let me never be put to shame.

In your justice deliver me;

Incline your ear to me;

Make haste to rescue me!

Be my rock of refuge,

A stronghold to save me.

(Psalm 31: 1-3)