Where to Cast the Net: Seeking God in Unemployment

Simon must have been exhausted. He had been fishing all night and caught nothing. He was a fisherman, so this wasn’t just how he fed his family, this was his very livelihood. I imagine him feeling frustrated, anxious, and helpless as he washed his nets. 

Being unemployed since late April, I strongly identify with Simon – who would eventually be called Peter – in the story of his calling from Luke 5.

I had been working for a cruise line for only four months when the pandemic hit, so when the company announced layoffs, I sensed that I would be one of the hundreds of employees to be let go. I was right. 

RELATED: What Now? 3 Ways to Discover Your Vocation

Immediately, I cleaned up my resumé, reached out to professional contacts, and began applying to new jobs. I started “fishing.” And like Simon, for months, I’ve caught nothing. 

It has been a rollercoaster of hope – finding job prospects, landing interviews, feeling confident – and despair – waiting for an answer, receiving offers only to have them fall through at the last minute, or never even hearing back at all.

This is something that millions of my brothers and sisters are experiencing right now as we face layoffs, furloughs, and salary cuts as the economy falters. Our livelihoods and security are taken away suddenly. 

But if there is a life experience that God uses to teach me about trusting in him, it’s being unemployed and looking for a job. Every day of this difficult time, it’s putting my future in his hands and believing that he has a plan for my life.

RELATED: The Hope That Comes From Waiting

It’s not easy. I often feel like Simon must have – tired, dejected, and hopeless. But then this young rabbi asks him to go out a short distance from the shore so he can teach the crowd from his boat. As drained as Simon was, there was just something about this guy and what he was saying that brought him peace and comfort. So much so that when Jesus tells Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch” (Mt 5:4), Simon does it and catches so many fish that his nets were tearing. 

This story teaches me a few things: First, listening to Jesus’ words as he preached gave Simon peace and a glimmer of hope. So when Jesus commanded him, he was primed to step out in faith and obey. Every morning, I invite God into my boat by spending time with him and his word. This puts my heart and spirit in the right place to listen and obey as he guides my actions.

Secondly, Simon had to do the work. Jesus couldn’t perform a miracle or make things happen if Simon had given up or said no. Simon needed to actively participate in what Jesus was going to do for him. Similarly, I have to put in the work — job searching, applying, polishing my skills and doing my best every day to achieve my goal. I can’t just sit around waiting for a job to miraculously fall in my lap. 

RELATED: Does God Care Where I Work? 

And even though Simon had been laboring unsuccessfully for a while, it wasn’t until this command-and-obey moment that he caught more than he could have imagined. God’s timing is everything. I strive knowing that many days I won’t see any results, yet believing that when God wills it, it will happen.

Finally, Jesus told Simon to put out into deep water, meaning, don’t just skim the surface. These experiences of uncertainty and fear are an opportunity to look deeper within ourselves. Yes, I need a job, but what do I need spiritually? If we have the courage to go deeper with the Lord, who knows the bounty we will reap! 

One day, through God’s providence and faithfulness, I will get a job. And in the process, I will gain a deeper trust in God and come closer to Jesus. Like Simon, I will fall at his knees, seized with astonishment that he has given me more or better than anything I could’ve dreamed up for myself.

Originally published October 12, 2020.