My career looked promising as a working college student. I was promoted to a manager’s position at a local restaurant near my college. Students were not usually offered leadership positions so this was a great opportunity. Since the restaurant belonged to a nationwide chain, my future looked bright.
One of my new duties as manager was turning off the lights at closing time by flipping a series of circuit breakers. Another manager gave instructions for which switches to flip but in my first-night nervousness, I couldn’t remember what he said. So I did some educated guessing figuring to have someone check before leaving. In the rush, I went home, forgetting all about the circuit breakers.
Early the next morning, the phone rang and the angry voice on the other end told me to come to work immediately. At the restaurant, people were running in and out of the building carrying boxes of meat into a refrigerated truck. The owner called me in his office and angrily informed me that I turned off the power to the walk-in freezer. Most of the food valued at several thousand dollars, would be thrown out. I made a major mistake. No excuses would be accepted or tolerated! It was my responsibility!
I was told to resign as manager but offered an opportunity to remain as an employee. Unfortunately, my fierce pride took over my common sense. I angrily refused their offer and quit. Foolish, very foolish!
At this point you could focus on my mistakes (there were many) and justifiably say I deserved my fate. “Stop whining Larry and learn from your blunders.” You could say that and you would be right.
Or, you could righteously proclaim that I was an innocent victim of poor management procedures (also true) that allowed for no margin for error. “They should have put a chart on the fuse box and they should have checked behind you more carefully.” You could say that and you would be right again.
Both views contained an element of truth but neither meant a hill of beans to me. I needed some form of encouragement and compassion. Having never lost a job before, I believed life was over. After all, what else was I good for? How would I recover? Holding a job was my identity. What would I do now?
Have you ever felt that way? Today, our economy is still recuperating from a severe recession. Many are jobless and wondering if they will recover. Our job represents much of our self-identity and worth.
So, whether you’ve lost a job or struggling with other issues, Paul’s letter to the Romans could be helpful. Paul too suffered and understood what it meant to be rejected and discarded; yet he still managed to write these stirring words of encouragement and hope:
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us endure. And endurance develops strength of character and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:3-5
Ø Problems and trials are a normal part of growth. They can even be good for us.
Ø Our endurance through those trials develops character. We become stronger.
Ø Character teaches us to wait upon God. Our relationship with God improves.
Ø We trust in God’s love to see us through. The Holy Spirit fills our hearts with His love.
Looking back, I realize that losing my job was difficult, but not the end of the world. There were valuable lessons from being fired that would improve my later performance as an employee and a leader. I learned the importance of being better organized, listening carefully and asking good questions.
God uses even our failures as learning tools to help us grow stronger in our faith.
This particular scripture is also a reminder of how very much God loves us, even when we are fired. Ultimately everyone stumbles but the successful folks are the ones who learn to get up again and again, if necessary, dust themselves off and continue on their God-chosen path with their faith steadily growing stronger. Losing your job is an obstacle, a setback but not your life.
For that, “We can rejoice.”