How God helped me cope with being laid off

Two weeks ago, my boss called me to the conference room and told me he had some bad news for me.

Our company had just revealed that they made a loss this year and had to make cuts in the budget. As a result of the cuts, they had to lay me off.

When I first heard the news, I was shocked. I didn’t expect it because my boss had told that he thought I was a great writer and so I was doing well in the company. I was happy at the job as what I did was of benefit to society, so saw it as a perfect match of using my gifts as a writer to help others. I saw my job not just as a means to earn money, but as a calling and felt that God had called me to be in this job. But now I suddenly found out that it wasn’t God’s will for me to stay in this job, so it was a big shock and I found it difficult to understand why God allowed this to happen.

So my first reaction to the news was shock, fear, disappointment, discouragement, and frustration.

Later, I spent time processing the news prayerfully and reminded myself of God’s promises. I turned to Matthew 6, where Jesus pointed out that the birds and the flowers don’t work, but God still provides for them. As Christians, we have the promise that God will always provide for our financial needs and we are commanded to “Seek first His Kingdom and his righteousness and all these will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). Likewise, Jeremiah 29:11 says – “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper and not to harm you.” And Philippians 4:19 says “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

After I meditated on those promises, I felt at peace, because God had promised to take care of my financial needs even if I didn’t have a job.

On Saturday night, I couldn’t sleep so spent the time in prayer. God sent all sorts of encouraging thoughts to my mind to lift my spirits. I felt He was telling me – “Hwee Hwee, I know you feel peace about being laid off, but I want you to not only feel peace but joy.” God reminded me of one of my favourite verses in the Bible – “In all things God works for good for those who love Him”. (Romans 8:28) He told me – “If you really believe that this lay-off is for your good, you won’t be fearful or disappointed. You would be over-joyed. Instead of seeing it as bad news, you would see it as good news. I want you not just to be at peace with the lay-off but to thank me for it, and be grateful that I am going to use your lay-off to provide something even better for you.” I meditated on His promises all night and in the morning, I really believed that the lay-off was for my good and was filled with His joy.

One thing God has taught me is to focus on the positive instead of the negative. When something bad happens, I focus on the good things I can do to manage the challenging situation, instead of dwelling on all the negative things that I can’t control. I ask myself – how can I use this set-back for my advantage?

One major blessing that can come out from being laid-off is that it would give me an opportunity to pursue my dream job. It’s always been my dream, since I was 15, to be a full-time Christian writer and make my living out of writing Christian books. Now that I was out of a job, I finally had the time to work on two book projects which I’ve wanted to work on but didn’t have the time when I still had a ful-time job.

However, I still felt afraid. Would I have the wisdom and inspiration to write 2 great books? Would I be able to sell the books once I completed it? It’s very difficult to sell a book, so my dream is full of challenges.

But I reminded myself of the story of Peter walking on water. (Matthew 14). Peter wanted to do something amazing for God and asked Jesus to help him walk on water. Jesus said – “Come” and when Peter followed His call, Peter managed to walk on water. However, Peter lost focus on Jesus, saw the stormy waves and started to sink. Peter cried out to Jesus and our Lord grabbed hold of him and brought him to safety.

What I learnt from this passage is not to focus on my difficult circumstances but to keep my focus on Jesus. My lay-off would lead to great challenges, writing and trying to publish two books would also be very challenging, but I should fix my eyes on Jesus rather than on the challenges. My focus should be on Christ, who has such great power that He rose from the dead. Through Christ, I have that resurrection power as well and Christ will help me raise my dead dreams to life.

Another good thing that came out of my lay-off is that I got a good testimonial letter from my former boss. He wrote that I was a good writer and that he would recommend me for any writing jobs. With that positive letter and a strong track-record as a writer, it gives me confidence in landing another full-time writing job,  one that’s even better than what I had previously. What’s good is that I didn’t lose my job because of bad performance, but through something I couldn’t control (a bad economy).

One of the challenges I’m facing is dealing with uncertainty. Questions like – When will I get my next job? Will I like the new job? Will I succeed in writing 2 great books? Will I be able to get my books published and will they sell well?

The challenge is to continue to trust God in the midst of uncertainty. Like the promise that God made in Jeremiah, God promises that He has a good plan for my life. His favour surrounds me like a shield (Psalm 5:12) and goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. (Psalm 23). God is in charge of the story of my life and He has promised a good ending. So even when a boulder suddenly appears in my path, I trust that He will help me overcome it. In Romans 8, God promises that we are more than conquerors over all difficulties.

I honestly don’t know what my future will be like, and that can be scary, but God is telling me to live just one day at a time. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34). I am not sure what will happen to me in the long term, but for now God has called me to work on my book projects, so I’ll just focus on that in the short term.

What has struck me is how I’ve grown as a Christian over the years. The first time I was laid off, I was working as a technology reporter in New York in 2001 and it was during the dot-com bust. I got laid off from my job in New York and had to move back to Singapore since I didn’t have the money to stay on in New York. When I first returned to Singapore, I was very depressed. I loved living in Brooklyn and couldn’t imagine myself ever being happy staying in Singapore. But this past year as been full of blessings and I can gladly say that this is the best year since I returned to Singapore and I’ve been happy. Now when I’ve been laid off again, I feel peace and joy instead of depression. So the way God has changed me is a great blessing in itself. I believe that the God who worked good out of my first lay-off will also bless me through my latest lay-off.

So I’m very much looking forward to this new season in my life, when I’ll have the opportunity to work on my Christian book projects and this Christian blog. It’s an opportunity to pursue my dreams. It’s the start of something new, a new adventure full of challenge and uncertainty, but it’s exciting as I believe that God will be my guide.

*

If you enjoyed reading this blog post, please do visit the site again. I post a new blog entry once a week, usually on Wednesday.

 

Take risks for a big God

We serve a big God, who can do exceedingly abundantly above what we can hope or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

God has placed dreams in our hearts and He desires for us to pursue those dreams.

However, often these dreams are so big that when we see our lack of resources and the difficulties involved in pursuing those dreams, we feel discouraged. Some of us might even give up pursuing our big, God-given dreams altogether.

One of the things that stops us from pursuing our dreams is our fear of taking risks. Most of the time, our dreams ask us to reach for something great and the pursuit of our dreams often leads us on a dangerous path. We are tempted to live a mediocre life, because an easy life is secure and comfortable, while a life spent pursuing big dreams involves taking risks, sometimes putting yourself in a position where you will face loss or harm.

For me, when I was a child, I always dreamed of being a writer. It was my greatest desire to have a book published by a major Western publisher. So when it came to choosing a college degree, I had to decide between studying a creative writing course or doing business. Studying business would lead to a secure financial job, but that was not my passion. Finance puts me to sleep. But studying creative writing was a financial risk and it’s well known that English literature graduates have problems finding a job after they graduate. But I decided to take the risk and enrolled in a creative writing course in university, where I wrote my first novel. Before I made that decision to pursue a career as a writer, I was worried. Nobody in Singapore had ever had a novel published by a major Western publisher. Would I be able to achieve something that nobody in my country had done before? However, I took the risk and pursued a career as a writer, writing my first novel. And to my amazement, God blessed my decision. At the young age of 21, I became the first Singaporean to be published by Penguin and had my novel translated to German, Swedish, Dutch and even Slovak.

The Bible encourages us to take big risks to fulfill our giant God-sized dreams.

One good biblical example is Peter. One night, he was in his boat with the other disciples when they were hit by a big storm. He saw a figure walking on water towards his boat. At first, he was terrified, thinking he had seen a ghost. But the ghostly figure said – “It’s me, Jesus”. Peter then asked Jesus to enable him to walk on water. Jesus said – “Come”. In taking a step into the water, Peter was taking a big risk. If Jesus didn’t enable him to walk on water, he would drown. Peter was willing to risk his life to fulfill his dream of walking on water, of experiencing the wonder of performing a miracle of nature. Peter took the risk and was rewarded – his feet hit the waves and the water was as firm as solid rock, and Peter experienced the amazement of walking on water.

What risks are holding you back from pursuing your dreams and fulfilling your God-given destiny?

Today, take a step of faith into the stormy waters and like Peter, experience a miracle as God does the extraordinary in your life!