Benjamin Franklin had very definite opinions about debt, one of my favorites being, "Better to go to bed supperless, than wake up in debt." What a stark contrast to the attitude many have toward debt today. Instead of something to be avoided, we have embraced credit as a friend-an easy way to bypass shortages of funds. If debt was once such a disgrace, why do we now see debt as a strange sort of blessing rather than a curse?
Part of the problem is our cultural mind-set that debt is normal. It's as if you are somehow abnormal if you choose to avoid it. We face a fierce pressure to live as "everyone else" does-even if that means spending beyond our incomes. We want the same standard of living as our parents and grandparents, without all the hard work and saving they did to get where they are.
We've bought into the lie that says living the good life means having what we want when we want it. The line of thinking goes like this: "If you want to be happy, you have to have stuff. To have stuff, you have to have money. If you don't have money, you can still have stuff, but you have to have debt." Debt is seen as a necessary evil.
Do you think you'd have to be on the verge of bankruptcy to be seriously affected by debt? Think again. Debt changes the way we live and the way we relate to our families. Many mothers who would rather stay home with their new babies can't because they have to go back to work. Couples who say that family time is most important rarely see each other and their kids because they must work long hours to make payments on their debt. Decisions are not made according to what is best for the family but, instead, what is necessary to pay basic expenses plus all the debt too.
Does your family have more consumer debt than you care to admit? How would your life look if you were debt free? What would you do that you can't do now? Would you spend more time with your family? Volunteer more? Explore career options that never seemed viable before? Likewise, what wouldn't you do that you must do now? Would being free from financial concerns make it easier to live life the way you truly want to live it?
Unfortunately, Satan can use debt as a noose around your neck. Whether you owe a little or a lot, being in debt causes you to have divided loyalties. How can you truly put your family first when financial obligations dictate when, where, and how much you work? How can you fully pursue God's will for your life when you are so busy just trying to pay the bills? Like the other forms of clutter, debt takes your attention away from God. Buying on credit keeps you from looking to God for his provision to meet your needs. After all, why wait for God to provide when instant credit and no down payment mean you can provide for yourself right away?
Would you like to make a clean break from the bondage of debt? Using these steps, your family can experience this kind of freedom:
1. Stop sugar-coating debt. You must see debt for what it really is: slavery. Consumer debt is not a necessity. It is not a convenience or a luxury. Debt is a ball and chain that keeps you from living your life the way God wants you want to live it. Get angry about the situation, and use your anger to propel you into action to do something about it.
2. Take responsibility for the problem.Take a serious look at why those debts occurred. Debt is an external symptom of clutter of the heart. Spend time figuring out what is going on inside you that caused the debt in the first place. Was it because your family didn't trust and wait for God's provision? Did you try to take the easy way out and use credit instead of saving up for what you needed? Could you have avoided debt by setting aside funds to cover the inevitable emergencies of life? Whatever the underlying reason for the debt, admit any wrongdoing on your part, and ask God to help you deal with that issue.
3. Seek godly counsel. Seek counsel about the best way to deal with your debt. Several Christian organizations (Crown Financial Ministries, Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University) help families use biblical principles to break free from debt. Ask a trusted friend or your pastor to suggest the best resources for guidance and support to work through the steps of debt repayment.
4. Be patient.Just as we don't gain weight overnight, we don't sink deeply into debt overnight either. Both situations take time and effort to change. The larger the debt problem, the longer it will take to work through it. But instead of focusing on how long it will take you to repay your debts, focus instead on how wonderful it will feel when you are completely free. Celebrate small victories along the way so you will not get discouraged as you work toward your ultimate goal.