Spiritually Speaking

QUESTION: I’m very discouraged because I’ve been out of work for 16 months. I’m well educated and a highly skilled computer technologist. I was raised in a Christian home and my wife and I established a Christian home when we were married four years ago. We attend church regularly. We have two young children. We’re grateful for the local food bank and help other community services offer, but it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I’m aware of God’s promises in the Bible: “Ask and ye shall receive,” and “Knock and the door will be opened.” I’ve asked and I’ve knocked and there doesn’t seem to be any movement in the job market even though I’ve made a job of getting a job.

Any words of encouragement are welcome.
~ Discouraged


Dear Discouraged,
First let me say that you’re not alone. Unemployment is an isolating experience but currently the unemployment rate in California is 11.3%. Only Nevada has a higher unemployment rate. That means you are surrounded by millions of Americans who are facing the same kind of problems you are. So please don’t be ashamed. You’re in good company.

Second, you are not alone when it comes to God’s abiding presence. He has not left you. He has not forsaken you. I’m sorry for your loss. I pray for your employment. Christians are not immune to the hardships of this terrible economy. We cry out to him for answers, for comfort, for food, rent, medicine and a job! Sometimes it takes so long! But God has not forgotten you! The Bible says, “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” 2Chr 16:9

Be open to new possibilities. Walk by faith, not by sight. Cry out to God and feel free to complain to him. He has broad shoulders. Be alert for other areas where God seems more attentive. Ask him what he wants to accomplish through this deep valley in your life. Perhaps you and he can partner together to explore a new direction for your life that you would never have been open to had you kept your old job. And perhaps above all, remember that though it seems like it, life will not always be like this. Because God loves you, there’s still hope for you … today!

Rev. Jon T. Karn
Light on the Corner Church

Dear Discouraged,
I’m reminded of a quote by Henry Ford: “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” How easy it is to get caught up in thoughts of lack and limitation when listening to current economic reports and experiencing the fallout first hand. The documentation is there – unemployment is at an all-time high, and being one of the statistics absolutely can be discouraging. Our greatest power is our power to choose, and we can choose to believe God’s promises because they are just as true today as they have always been: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5.

I’ve been in some tough spots in my lifetime and in retrospect, I expended unnecessary anguish in situations that would have been much easier had I stood firmly in trusting God. When I was going through some of those most difficult times, I remember thinking, “I want a solution now.”

Over the years, I’ve learned that resolutions to life’s challenges happen in God’s time – not always as quickly as I would have liked. In Psalm 27:14, we find: “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thy heart; wait, I say on the Lord.” We also must remember to “Let go and let God.” God hears our prayers, my friend.

Keep praying and engage your family in prayer, as well. In the book of Matthew, Chapter 18, regarding prayer, “Where two or more are gathered in my name, therein lies the Power and the Presence of God.” Stand firm in your faith – there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

Rev. Beverly Craig
Center for Spiritual Living – La Crescenta

QUESTION: My parents have told me if I wanted a car, I’d have to buy it and take care of it myself, including being responsible for my own insurance even though they are willing to put me on their policy. Here’s the problem: I’ve been saving my money for a car since I was 12 and now I’m 16. Until I was 15, I worked summer jobs and helped neighbors with lawn work and for the last year and a half, I’ve worked part time during the school year and full time in the summer. I get good grades in school, and I think I have proved to my parents that I’m a responsible guy.

I now have enough to buy a used car. Every time the subject comes up since I’ve saved enough money, my mother tells me how worried she is about me having my own car. My dad thinks it’s okay for me to buy a car and is willing to help me shop for one. My mom showed me the Spiritually Speaking column and asked me to write to you. She’s willing to consider your opinions.  
~ Confused teen

Dear Confused Teen,
I have a boy your age myself, and while he isn’t financially ready for a car, the topic has certainly come up about obtaining a driver’s license. Let me say that I’m with you and your dad on this, and here’s why. There’s a reason God made parents male and female, and our differences complement one another and keep one another in check. If you’ll notice, dads generally pick up their smaller children and throw them in the air. As the children get older, dads encourage them to play rough sports and by the time they reach your age, dads are favoring more adult responsibility.

Moms are the other way around. They pick children up and kiss their boo-boos. They fret over their children doing adventurous things that might make them fall down and cry. And when it’s time for a car, moms are the biggest trumpeters of caution for their “babies.” After all, statistics show that the driver age with the highest crash rate is yours. That’s why your insurance is going to be high starting out.

But your parents are raising a man, and it sounds like you’re growing into a very responsible one. Assure your mother that you will drive safe, then follow through. Most of those previously mentioned crashes are speed related, and speed kills. Follow the limits, drive sober, value your driving record, “Honor your father and mother” (Ephesians 6:2-3). I think most of us would be happy sharing the road with one such as you.

Brien Griem web
Rev. Bryan Griem
Montrose Community Church

Dear Confused Teen,
As a parent of four grown children, I certainly understand your mother’s concerns. But I have also learned through the years that allowing my sons and daughters to experience things for themselves has been an important part of parenting even when I have wanted to protect them from what I thought were potentially dangerous experiences. And I am happy to say that they have become mature and responsible adults. But do try to recognize what is going on for your mother in this case. She just wants to keep you safe – as most parents do.

That being said, your mother and dad seemingly agreed that you could have a car if you took total responsibility for its purchase, insurance and maintenance. Now, as I understand it, your parents disagree with each other about the issue of your having a car of your own. So my suggestion would be that you have a respectful dialogue with both of them together and try to work out a mutual understanding, preferably in writing. Assuming that all goes well with that discussion and agreement, you could then involve them in helping you negotiate for your purchase. That may help allay your mother’s fears and even bring an increased family bond.

You seem to be a conscientious young man who has worked hard to fulfill your end of the bargain by taking on numerous jobs during the last four years, saving your money and maintaining good grades. Now it is time for you to work with your parents to accomplish your goal and demonstrate responsible car ownership. I hope that you and your parents will be able to come to a consensus on this issue and would look forward to hearing how things work out.

Rev. Dr. Betty Stapleford
Minister of the Unitarian Universalist
Church of the Verdugo Hills
La Crescenta