By Steve Wunderli, Contributor

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A confession: I didn’t really keep my faith, but I did regain it.

The first thing you do when you lose your job is go through emotional stages similar to grief: denial, anger, blame, and finally acceptance. Somewhere in there is self-pity, depression, deflection of responsibility, and loss of faith. It’s a rough road, especially after all the sacrifices it took to get through college, all the late nights and all-nighters working your way up the corporate ladder, not to mention feeling like you had sufficient faith to get you through anything in life.

The next thing you do is look at everyone around you who is working and say to yourself: “I could do that. I could drive a dump truck, or be a bank teller or a school teacher or run a cash register . . .” It must be this primal survival skill of casting the net really wide.

Then once the panic settles down, you can find a realistic path. My advice is to discover: (1) what you are passionate about; (2) what your skills are; and (3) where the opportunities are. I found that when you get out of that space, you just get frustrated. Zeroing in did a lot for my self-confidence. But it wasn’t easy.

I had to learn to have faith in myself: my experience, my skills, my education, and especially my ability to adapt. This is really just having a spiritual sense of yourself and who God wants you to be. That’s the final dimension of faith: Asking Him what He wants you to do. Once you humble yourself to that point, then all the work you do to logically find a job starts to work. Unexpected doors open up, people call you.

I worked like crazy to try get a startup off the ground. I did consulting to make the house payments and I put all home and car repairs on hold. It all fell apart. More stuff broke at home, and the startup never got started. That’s when I asked: “OK, what should I be doing?” That takes humility. Something that does not come easy to me.

Change started to happen—bits of work came in. Nothing permanent, but checks came in here and there and we were making it, barely. And I was enjoying the work. I just needed more of it.

We went through our savings. Sold off things we didn’t need. Cut back on every category in our budget. I worked twice as hard for half the money. But with every little success I added to my portfolio of work. My faith increased. I prayed for more work.
What came was a request for me to volunteer at an inner-city school tutoring third graders in reading. Not exactly the answer I was looking for. But I did it. I was too afraid of what might happen if I didn’t respond to urgings that could be coming from God. Reluctantly I set off to spend an hour a week of my precious time helping with comprehension and word recognition when I could be looking for work. But here’s the thing: I was energized by it. Seeing these kids improve, having someone believe in them, even love them, made all the difference.

Then it struck me one day. That’s all I am, a child in this world trying as hard as I can to learn . . . and God is my mentor. My mindset changed from resentment to gratitude. It was as if God was offering the same words of encouragement to me as I was offering to these kids “Just keep trying, you’re doing great.”

Small miracles began to happen. Even without a permanent job, I was able to reduce our house payment. It took a lot of work and faith, but things began to improve, slowly… like moving up one grade level at a time . More work came in. My new portfolio was multiplying. The kids I was mentoring were progressing, and so was I. My prayers went from “bless me…” to “bless these kids…”
It sounds simple, but I truly believe that when you spend some part of your regular life completely focused on somebody else’s success, you also find your own.

When I finally did get a regular contract, with benefits and a sense of stability, I made one stipulation: Wednesday afternoons were non-negotiable. That time is reserved for building faith—and others.