I used to stay up at night, crying with fear, anger, worry, grief, shame and sadness. As the tears touched the pillow, I cursed myself.
How could we have been so stupid?
You see, my husband and I had unknowingly borrowed student loans up to their necks in the amount of $ 154,000. It was easy to borrow and even easier to turn a blind eye to how quickly loans were increasing while we were in college. We graduated with a baby, a stack of bills, and no income.
As a result, I clawed at couch cushions, in the laundry, in our tiny Honda Fit, looking for little pieces to bolster our paltry grocery budget. Every dollar makes a difference when your monthly student loan bill exceeds $ 1,300. David’s words resonated with us when he wrote Psalm 69:
“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink into the muddy depths, where there is no outlet. I entered the deep waters; floods engulf me. I am exhausted to call for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail looking for my god. Those who hate me for no reason more than the hairs of my head; many are my enemies without cause, those who seek to destroy me. I am obliged to restore what I did not steal.
The floods have swallowed us up. We felt like we were sinking and we weren’t unique. Anxiety and mental illness are common among borrowers. In fact, according to a study conducted by Student Loan Planner, 1 in 15 people contemplate suicide because of this anxiety. One in fifteen. As the burden of student loans increases, so does the likelihood that a borrower will consider terminating themselves.
How heartbreaking and understandable.
Every time one of our children got sick, it made us panic. Watching your child suffer from an illness is hard enough in itself. However, when you live on the financial edge, the stress of extra daycare bills, an extra babysitter, prescriptions, and the doctor can set you back. Plus, I was worried my employer would tire of what I thought were endless demands for time off to take care of my family, so I was petrified that my job was in jeopardy. This meant that on top of all the stress already there, we might not even receive a full paycheck. At times like these, it was easy to get into a fight at home. Our marriage has become fragile.
In hindsight, every bump in the road looked like an elephant-sized emergency. Any unforeseen expense was a terrifying, icy, marriage-testing emergency, for we had no room in our lives. I remember crying over the utility bill. “Why can’t you remember to turn off the lights?” ”
But a life of debt anxiety is not what God is calling us to do. Jesus said he came to give life and give it in fullness. 2 Timothy 1: 7 helped us realize that what we thought was not from Christ: “For God did not give us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline. Our debt barely allowed us to exist, much less to live.
In 2 Kings, there is the story of a widow whose little boys were going to be taken away as slaves because this mother could not pay her debt. God worked a financial miracle for her, allowing her not only to pay all she owed, but also to care for her children and live afterward.
We held onto these scriptures, believing that if God did not give us this spirit of fear, and if God could work a miracle for the widow, He could also do a financial miracle in our lives. God blessed our decision and allowed us to work and pay a total of $194,079.95. During six years of hard work, Hebrews 11:12 has become my mantra: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later, however, he produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been formed by him.
Paying off your debts is painful, but it is not impossible. The method that worked for us was to make minimum payments on every loan, except the smallest, and concentrate all of our extra funds there. Our anxiety peaked whenever we looked at our total mountain of debt, so we quickly discovered the need to keep the blinders on and focus only on what was under our control. This has helped us stay motivated when we look at our 28 individual loans.
We paid the last dime a year ago, and the difference in a lifetime of anxiety, shame and stress over debt is hard to describe.
I will try anyway.
It’s like fresh, cool air is filling your lungs after holding your breath for too long.
It is like the tender green buds of spring after six years of winter.
It’s like a soft, clean carpet on tired, sore feet.
We can spend, we can save, and we can give without fear, shame, anxiety or guilt. When the truck needed spares, we didn’t go without spending money or became a one-car family, for the first time in our married life. Every time someone organized a fundraiser in 2020, we made a donation.
Friends began ministries, planted churches, and went to the overseas mission field. We have the honor to participate financially in these calls.
And it’s been a while since we’ve had to rummage through couch cushions, the laundry room, and under car seats for quarters.
There are 42 million Americans with student loans today, taking on a huge $ 1.71 trillion. If you are one and you don’t know where to start to pay off your debt, start by believing you can do it. To the borrower who has long left college and yet the loans persist, rest assured! As Paul, the New Testament writer encourages, you can lead your race to the end.
Here’s how we got rid of student loan anxiety: We insisted on getting rid of it completely.
The Widow of 2 Kings I mentioned earlier comes to Elisha knowing that her sons would be enslaved if she didn’t do something. She was in a panic. When he asked her how he could help her and what did she have, she replied: “I have nothing! Just a little jar of olive oil.
When we are faced with a seemingly inextricable mountain of debt, it’s easy to think that we have nothing either. Elisha tells the widow to take this thing she has and ask her friends and neighbors for their empty jars. He then asks him to pour the oil from his pot into each of the empty pots. The oil is multiplied until there is not a single empty pot left! Scripture tells us that she pays off her debts and ends up with enough money for her family to live on afterward.
God used what little she had and multiplied her to work a financial miracle. When we first looked at our mountain of bills, it was easy to see what we didn’t have: we had no income, no savings, and no idea how we would get out of it.
But we had the skills, the time and the will. We asked God to use these things, and through them he worked a miracle.
Student loan anxiety doesn’t have to weigh you down forever. No matter where you are, God can save you and work a financial miracle through you. Is it hard work? Absolutely. But freedom is worth it.