How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace
About two and a half years ago my wife and I set out to become debt free and make a better life for not only ourselves but for our future child/children. At the time, two and a half years ago, we were living paycheck to paycheck just barely getting by and making a whole lot less than we had in bills, loans, and expenses as I’m sure many of you reading this can relate to.
We didn’t think that there was anyway out of the situation we were in. We had an insurmountable debt that we didn’t have a big enough shovel to dig ourselves out of. We were overwhelmed, as all of us get sometimes when we loose our perspective and start looking at how big our problems are instead of how big our God is.
We had pretty much lost all hope and were at the end of our rope just holding on to dear life. Until we were over a friends of ours, who had just moved into their dream home, and they began to tell us their story of how they were in the same place that we were currently in and managed to dig their way out of it and become debt free. This was like a breath of fresh air. We didn’t have any faith to get through our situation but this was like the second-hand faith that we needed to help pick ourselves up off of the mat and get back into the fight.
Our faith had been restored. Our hope had been renewed. We sat down, came up with a game-plan, and began to slowly chip away at our debt. Now this isn’t the part of the story where everything from here on was all peaches and cream, we lived happily ever after, the end. No it was hard. We had to make a lot of sacrifices. We had to cut down all living expenses. We had to come up with and stick to a budget. We had to live off of one income. That meant we had to move in with my wife’s mother. That meant we had to get rid of cable. That meant that I had to cancel my gym membership, twice. We had to cut back on eating out. We had to live well below our means. We had to work long days and pick up overtime at our jobs. My wife did swim lessons on the side, apart from here full-time job, in order to have extra cash to pay toward our debt.
Now I say all that not to scare anyone who might be reading this and finds themselves in a similar place that we were in about two and half years ago. I say all that so that you will know that the reality of the situation is that you are going to have to be willing to make a lot of sacrifices and many tough decisions in order to become debt free. You’re going to have to learn how to say no. You’re going to have to know the difference between a need and a want. You’re going to have to do somethings you necessarily don’t want to in order to save money and also increase your income. You’re going to have to be willing to work long days and maybe have some short restless nights. All of this boils down to this one thought, in order to get yourself out of debt you are going to have to be willing to make the temporary sacrifices so that you can ultimately receive the eternal rewards. The apostle Paul wrote it more elegantly in his letter to the Romans:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
We used what is called the snowball method, which basically recommends that you attack your least amount of debt and so on and so on until you have paid off all you loans (credit cards, student loans, auto loans, etc). Just like in real life, if you ever rolled a snowball down a hill you understand this analogy, the snowball starts off really small, then it starts gaining momentum and by the time it reaches the bottom of the hill, it has grown considerably. In other words you start off with a small amount of money to attack a huge amount of debt, but then you start gaining some momentum, chipping away at your debt little by little, until you reach the bottom of the hill and the money you have to attack your debt has grown considerably and your amount of debt isn’t as insurmountable as it was when you first began.
This journey of becoming debt free that my wife and I have been on for the last two and a half years has reminded me of three stories from the Bible. Which I would like to share with you as I bring this blog post to a close.
The first is the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand with just five loaves of bread and two fish. (See Matthew 14:13-21) The lesson that I took from this story that I applied to our journey to become debt free is that the little you have when it is in your hands doesn’t seem nearly enough but when you place it in the hands of Jesus it becomes more than enough. Paul wrote it this way when he was talking to the people in Ephesus:
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Just like the five loaves of bread and two fish weren’t nearly enough when they were in the hands of the little boy and probably was only enough to feed his family, they became more than enough when they were placed in the hands of Jesus and fed 5,000 families. In other words, your little can become much when you place it in the Master’s hands.
The second story is found in Mark’s gospel. (See Mark 6:45-52) The inspiration from this passage of scripture is you have to do your part before God will do His. God isn’t going to row the boat for you. The disciples had rowed three or four miles before Jesus came walking on the water. That is a long distance to row let alone through a storm resisting you the whole way. The disciples did their part. They rowed and strained until they couldn’t row anymore. They did everything in their power to reach the other side. It wasn’t until they did all that they could that Jesus stepped in and did what they couldn’t to get them to the other side. You see you have to do the natural before God puts His super on your natural. The hope that we have though rests in the promise that if we are faithful to do what we can, God is faithful to do what only He can and what we can’t.
Finally the last lesson that was learned is found in Joshua chapter three. God’s people, the children of Israel, had finally made it through the desert and were ready to enter the land that God had promised to them. They had come out of slavery in Egypt. They had crossed the desert. They had overcame a multitude of obstacles along the way. They could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. They could see the promise of God right before them. There was just one big problem. The Jordan River stood between them and the promise land. And it wasn’t just any river. This was the Jordan River at its worst. This was the Jordan River at its flood stage. In other words, the biggest barrier the Israelites had to overcome stood right between them and their biggest breakthrough. This rang true in our journey to debt freedom because right at the end of our road, right when we reached the last student loan, right when we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was fired from my job. Our biggest barrier throughout this whole process hit us head on without any notice right when we had seen the promise land of debt freedom. But God was faithful. And He didn’t provide me with another job, and even at the time of me writing this I don’t have a job, but He did provide a way out. God provided financial means and opportunities that we didn’t even know we had or even existed or were even a possibility that ended up being more than enough to pay off the remaining debt that we had left.
So my hope is that after reading all of this, if you find yourself in a similar situation that my wife and I were in, you will be able to gain the strength to pick yourself up off of the mat and get back into the fight. Your perspective will have shifted from how big your problem is to how big your God is. You will place your not enough into the hands of Jesus so that it can become more than enough. You will not only get into the boat, but that you will row the boat until you can’t row anymore. And when you finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, you will not be discouraged when you encounter your biggest obstacle. But you will push through to cross over into your greatest opportunity.
After all of this, I can say without a doubt and with all conviction that the sacrifices that we made were definitely worth it. That our temporary sufferings of having to say no to the good in order to receive the greater fail to compare to the freedom that my wife and I are now experiencing. All the sacrifices. All the pain. All the hard conversations. All the tough decisions. All the suffering. All the tears shed. They were all worth it. At the time it didn’t seem so, but now looking back, they all were. Because I can finally scream at the top of my lungs: “I AM DEBT FREE!”