“Encouragement for those in debt”
When my family and I moved back to the USA in 2013 we arrived with all our possessions in 8 suitcases and a couple of boxes. While we were excited to begin our new journey in Knoxville after several years in China, we weren’t quite sure how things worked in the US economy. We were Americans, but we didn’t know the rhythms of American life. So, instead of asking for help, we tended to spend money and generally hope things would balance out.
Let me stop here and take appropriate responsibility for that approach! As I sought to get what my family needed, I got into the habit of using credit cards too quickly and not thinking through what we had in the bank. Most times we’d have enough, but without any rainy day or emergency fund, the unexpected costs of daily life quickly translated into credit bills that carried from one month to the next. Insert some car trouble, unexpected medical bills, and having another child join our growing family, and soon we were about $3,000 in debt.
I confess to being really discouraged, and responded with either restricting purchases of all things other than the necessary to live, or swinging the other way in discouragement and spending even more money! While Lauren and I were not at risk of separating during this time, we still felt a tension between us. Financial problems were a threat to our union and are often the reason many couples divorce.
That’s about the time that Jack Bullington entered the story. Jack was a member of our church, and he led the Financial Peace class hosted by West Park. I worked with Jack, helping him set up the class, even talking with him about helping others with their finances and getting out of debt. As I talked with Jack I had an internal dialogue running through my mind that went something like this:
“You should tell Jack about the financial trouble you’re in.”
“Come on, things aren’t that bad for us, are they?”
“Please. You know they are.”
“Ok, but what will Jack think about a PASTOR being in debt?! Pastors aren’t supposed to be in debt. He’ll look down on me for sure. It’s better to keep my head down on this one.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea…”
Sure enough, it wasn’t a good idea. And eventually the Holy Spirit won out over my conflicted conscience and helped me talk to my wife, then talk to Jack about our need for financial counsel and practical help.
Jack asked us to write down all our current sources of income, all our current expenses, and the total debt we had. Then Jack came to our house and looked over everything. It was the moment of truth – would Jack judge us even as he sought to help? Praise God, no! He was gracious, smiled a lot, talked of the hope of God in hard times, assured us that there was a way out of debt and a way to be generous as an expression of faith in God. And with Jack’s encouragement and coaching, we started attacking our debt, and God proved abundantly over the next several years how richly He provides for us, even when I felt we didn’t deserve it.
What can you take away from this story?
• It’s really easy to go into debt. I think many of you are likely discouraged when you think about your current debt. I get it, I’ve been there.
• Humbly admit your financial difficulties to a trusted counselor in the church. That’s an important first step. Be ready to get real about your current money problems for the purpose of growing in Christ and seeing a way out of debt. We really don’t have to live with it.
• Check out the Financial Freedom ministry at West Park. What Jack was to me and Lauren back in 2015, Jess Holloway and his team will be to you today. There really is practical freedom from debt that you can start to experience right now!
• Above all, remember that our Jehovah Jireh is truly our Provider. There’s no limit to His care, for He sees your needs and is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think.