Unemployment is a spiritual problem. When a person loses their job, they’ve lost a means to provide for their family, an important aspect of their human flourishing, and the primary way they serve their neighbors. With the loss in vocation comes a loss in meaning. Not surprisingly, unemployment can have long-term negative effects on communities, families, and a person’s subjective well-being and self-esteem.
The most disturbing effect of unemployment is the despair that can lead people to take their own lives. One out of every five suicides in the world can be associated with unemployment, according to a new study published in The Lancet Psychiatry. As Business Insider reports,
The study, which was funded by the University of Zurich, analyzed mortality data from the World Health Organization in 63 countries from 2000 to 2011.
Of the approximately 233,000 suicides examined for each year, around 45,000, or 20%, were linked to unemployment, the study shows.
What’s more is the study found that there was an uptick in suicides following the 2008 financial crisis. In 2007, there were 41,148 suicides associated with unemployment. For comparison, in 2009, there were 46,131 suicides tied to unemployment–an increase of 4,983 following the economic downturn.
The vast majority of the unemployed will never resort to such extreme measures, of course. But the disturbingly high numbers who do reveals the loneliness, frustration, and hopelessness that can result from being out of work.
Helping the jobless find both work and meaning in their lives must be a priority for churches, as well as for individual Christians. We must let our family and friends who are searching for work know they are not alone. We must let them know we are praying for them and are willing to help. But most of all, we must let them know their true hope and identity lies not in their occupation but in Christ. As Lauren L. Moy says,
. . . the ultimate way to beat the job search blues is to remember that as Christians we have our identity grounded in our relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. We are unconditionally loved by the God of the universe. His love for us is not dependent on our performance or employment status. Our security and significance are in Christ, not in our occupation. I am secure in His love (Romans 8:35-39); I am His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10); I am complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10).