There’s nothing like a job search to make you feel inadequate. You spend hours polishing a resume in order to highlight your strengths and accomplishments and capabilities. You scour the internet for job openings that might be a good match—in the process realizing that 99% of the postings include at least one thing that should disqualify you. You apply anyway, taxing all your creative abilities to write an inviting, compelling cover letter. (Computers, by the way, have not made the search process easier on applicants. But that’s another story.)
If you’re lucky, you’ll get a response; too many employers don’t send anything to applicants they’ve rejected. But if you do get a response, it will likely say little more than “thank you for applying” and “we’ll keep your application on file for six months.” Often, especially if you happen to be applying for a pastoral position, the letter will praise your apparent skills and experiences before saying they’ve ruled you out. Those are nice in their own way, though you soon realize that they point more to your ability to present well on paper than to the church’s diligence in considering something beyond your resume.
Eventually, your skin thickens, your heart hardens, and your cynicism grows. You start applying for jobs you don’t want with companies you don’t know in places you’d never want to live. You’re not really interested, you just want to find out if you’re interesting, if anyone is willing to talk with you. Unfortunately, some of those places are willing—and then, after a couple emails and maybe a phone call or two, your integrity gets the better of you and you have to tell them no.
And all the while, you keep getting turned down by the places you really would like to work, where you think you would fit well and bring some good. And the mindset of failure settles in. “If I’m really as good as all these reject letters say,” you start to think, “then why won’t anyone talk to me?” You begin to think they’re lying: you’re really not all that good.
Then one day, in a conversation with a friend or a coach or a mentor—as you’re trying to be detached from the emotions of the search, yet vulnerable with them at the same time—he does something that spins you around. “I want you to be silent,” he says, “and listen for what God may want to say to you.” And though you’ve tried to be quiet and listen before, something is different this time. You actually hear something—or at least something comes into your mind that might be from God. And though you don’t want to too quickly break this brief and holy silence, you do.
I have loved you with an everlasting love.
“Very interesting,” he says. “I heard those same words.” Together you search your Bibles to find the context of those words, landing in Jeremiah 31:3. It’s a picture of God appearing in the wilderness to a quarrel-weary and anxious Israel (formerly known as Jacob), and reassuring him of His presence, love, and faithfulness: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” No matter what you do, Israel, I love you; I will always be faithful. Not because of anything you do; not in spite of any of your failures; but simply because my love is everlasting…because I am love.
And so, in the midst of a wearying, discouraging, fruitless job search, you hear the voice of God saying to you, too, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” When it feels like you’re not good enough, you hear God saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” And when yet another reject letter shows up in your email, you know, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” It’s something to hang onto.