Unemployed men often face a deeply spiritual struggle, and as they endure the hardship that comes with sudden unemployment, one Christian leader is encouraging churches to do more to provide short-term monetary assistance.
Last week, The Wall Street Journal called the distressingly high numbers of persistently unemployed men a "quiet catastrophe," noting that the United States is now home to roughly 7 million men ranging in age from 25 to 54, "the traditional prime of working life," who are unemployed.
"Often a man who is unemployed feels not only economic stress but a sense of confusion about who he even is," wrote Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, on his website Monday.
In his post titled, "How Can Your Church Serve Unemployed Men?" Moore acknowledged that men face the challenge of unemployment in unique ways, and the loss of a job often results in an identity crises. Prolonged unemployment is particularly devastating.
Best-selling author Gordon Dalbey knows the feeling all too well.
"I remember when I resigned from my first pastorate in 1985 to write and speak at events. It was terrifying to see my calendar so filled with meetings and appointments before then and so utterly blank afterward," said Dalbey, who wrote the best-selling book, Healing the Masculine Soul, in an interview with The Christian Post.
"The curse of the Fall is gender specific; the woman will have pain in childbirth and the man will have to labor the Earth, i.e., get his identity from his work and not from his true Father," Dalbey continued.
In his book, Sons of the Father, Dalbey penned a chapter titled "Making a Living or Making a Life: The Father and the Job," in which he argues that work becomes an idol more easily for men than it does for women.
Loss of work provides two options for men, Dalbey notes.
"[U]nemployment will force a man into either an alternative addiction — drinking, porn, etc. — or into the arms of the true Father of all men," he said. "You don't know that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have, as the saying goes. Jesus came to overcome the curse of the Fall, and will do that in any man's heart who lets Him."
"For most of my life I had been motivated by external demands of a paying job; now there were no such demands, and I would have to dig deep and find what internal motivation I might muster," Dalbey said. "My self esteem crumbled until I had the presence of spirit to agree that indeed to whatever extent it was wedded to my work it had to be sacrificed."
Such a process, however, is fraught with much spiritual warfare. And the Church must play a vital role here, Moore argues.
"Sometimes unemployment is a pivotal time for unexpected growth. A person may realize that he has gifts or callings he never knew he had, or never felt the freedom to explore. Our message to those facing unemployment is that the lack of a job need not mean idleness," Moore said.
While unemployment can present difficulties and protracted periods of temptation for men who, however unwittingly, have attached their manhood to their careers, the preaching ministry of the Church must inform them of the spiritual resources available for this fight.
"The Bible never allows us to close our eyes to those who are suffering economically. In some cases, that means direct help," Moore said, adding that churches should creatively work to assist those with physical needs when unemployment suddenly strikes, such as helping to pay for groceries or a car payment.
Yet often, "the solution is more in terms of putting people with resources that are not necessarily monetary," he added.