Three words can immediately strike fear, anxiety, or regret (and sometimes all three) into many students in America: student loan debt.
Debt acquired in college can be difficult to discuss, but it is an important conversation for Christian young adults to have — especially those of us who feel the leading of the Holy Spirit to enter ministry in the church or the foreign mission field. During the unique season of trying to reconcile this reality in my own life, the Lord has been gracious to provide a heart posture for me to have in the midst of seeking a plan to eliminate debt.
What do we do when we earnestly desire to have beautiful feet that bring good news (Isaiah 52:7) but are also bound by the need to repay the debt we have acquired (Proverbs 22:7)?
1. Give generously
Though this would probably be the last piece of advice given by a financial counselor, it is clear that our Wonderful Counselor commands generosity from His adopted sons and daughters. There are certainly nuances to this for those in financial debt (which the Scriptures also speak to and which we will discuss momentarily), but money should still remain part of our giving regardless of the circumstances.
In regard to monetary giving, my mind is immediately drawn to the poor widow spoken of in Luke 21 who placed her two copper coins into the offering box. Of her, Jesus said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (vv. 3—4 ESV). What an example to emulate!
May we not indulge the sins of selfishness, bitterness, or greed while we seek to settle our debts. It can be tempting to clench our fists tightly around the resources that our God provides for us, but we must keep a loose grip lest we fall into temptation. In your various forms of giving, ask the Lord to grant you grace to give with a cheerful heart (2 Corinthians 9:7) and wisdom paired with discernment to make sure you give thoughtfully and intentionally (Ephesians 5:16).
2. Work diligently
Of course, we should be aware of our responsibility to pay back what was loaned to us.
Each of us has a story of how we obtained these loans, but the bottom line is this: we each have a duty to pay our debts. We must keep this teaching in mind: “The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives” (Psalm 37:21 ESV). If we are not mindfully making sacrifices in our budgets that conform our lifestyles to reflect our desire to pay off our student loans, we are not honoring the Lord.
3. Pray unceasingly
An often tragically overlooked (or severely undervalued) resource is prayer. This glorious communion with God is the healing balm for an embittered soul, the rescue of an anxious mind, and a necessary place of rest and refocus for the believer. The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Church in Philippi makes clear the command for those in the body of Christ to seek our Lord in prayer:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (4:4—7 ESV).
Do not be anxious about paying off your student loans, but instead bring them to the feet of Jesus and ask for His help. Rather than drowning in discouragement, lift thanksgiving. Regardless of how He answers, you will be more transformed into His image through beholding the glory of God in the place of prayer (2 Corinthians 3:18).
4. Wait actively
Perhaps it has always been your dream to serve the Lord by proclaiming the Gospel to an unreached people group. Maybe after college, you became a Christian and you feel God is calling you now to pastor a church. If you have student loans to pay off, do not feel defeated.
Having “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” in your heart for those who do not yet know Jesus Christ because they have not heard the Gospel is a holy and right feeling (Romans 9:2 ESV). God has given you this burden for a reason. Just because you do not hold a title or are not yet where you want to be does not mean that you can’t daily demonstrate the Gospel to those around you.
In the midst of trying to decrease debt, do not allow the Enemy to make you indifferent, scared, or stagnant! Instead, ask God to open a door for the Word and then be ready to “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time” (Colossians 4:5 ESV). Satan would love to see you stop sharing the Gospel to those around you now out of paralyzation by a hope to do so elsewhere in the future, but God desires us to be seeking to share always (1 Peter 3:15).
5. Trust deeply
Finally, intentionally cultivate trust in God’s sovereignty. The work of the Kingdom isn’t upon your shoulders alone; the Church is accomplishing God’s purposes even in the midst of your working to pay off loans. His ways and thoughts are higher than our own (Isaiah 55:8-9). He knows the good works He has prepared beforehand for you to do (Ephesians 2:10), and by His grace and power, it shall be accomplished for His Kingdom. If God has called you, He will equip you (2 Corinthians 9:8). Drink deeply of the Lord’s goodness and grace and seek His face even in the midst of student debt.