Is Your Dream Costing You Money?
This week, a student in my Prosperous Home class asked me an important money question that many of us can relate to.
“What do I do if I’ve embarked on a project, and this project isn’t working out? My money is drying up.”
She had a vision and plans for the future, but as a student, she couldn’t earn income and keep up with her spending. Her debts were starting to mount, and she felt guilty because her savings were dwindling.
That’s an obvious problem. None of us want to engineer a long-term lifestyle that mounts debt and consumes our money. This woman had high hopes for the adventure she had chosen, but financially speaking, it was going the wrong direction! Now she was stuck.
She was essentially asking, “Do I keep going, which means mounting more debt? Or do I stop, which means sacrificing my dream?”
What Debt Really Is
When we find ourselves in the alarming position of pursuing a costly dream, the first thing we need to realize is that debt is not evil. It isn’t a sin to have debt. Whether we feel comfortable with this or not, debt is how much of the world creates wealth, using it as a way to leverage time and other assets.
Debt is a commitment. I like to picture it as a set of handcuffs. If you have a small amount of debt, you have little “cuffs,” like cufflinks, that serve as reminders of your promise to give your time and repay what you owe. If you have significant debt, it is more like an iron neck collar that can be used to control you. A person who is mounting debt is mortgaging or promising their future days.
The student in my class realized, “Yikes! I don’t know if I want to create this much debt.”
“Let’s talk about this idea in a bigger context,” I said.
The Big Picture of Debt
Let’s say you’ve engineered a plan that is creating debt. If you perceive the debt as necessary—perhaps it is a student or investment loan—this means you’re investing in yourself to gain something. You’ll still end up with debt at the end, but this question may help you make your decision: Is the juice worth the squeeze?
All of us need to answer that question based on our unique assignment in the kingdom of God. We aren’t here to serve ourselves; we are serving the King.
If we go to God and feel like He says, “Yes, continue,” then we need to plan for the amount of debt we’re going to create. It may take us an additional ten years or more of hard work to get out of debt, but that is part of the decision we’ve reached with God. We know in our hearts, “This is the way I should go. I feel He wants me to do this.”
We need to be realists in these matters. Some of us hesitate to plan this way because we feel like it isn’t stepping out in faith. But being practical isn’t a lack of faith—we actually use our faith to come up with real information and create a plan.
Consider the Time Commitment
After class, this student and I stood up at the whiteboard and drew a timeline for her. She was starting off with a certain amount in savings, but by the end of the school year, she would be this much in debt. The next step in her plan was to go to university and become an attorney.
“How will you do that?” I asked.
“I will borrow more,” she replied.
When we worked everything out, we discovered that if she followed her current plan, it would take her roughly twenty-two years to get out of debt.
Oh, that changed the whole conversation. Until that moment, she hadn’t thought about her situation in terms of the whole; she was thinking only of the next month or even the next week. Twenty-two years is a long time!
Consider Your Arsenal
When we feel like God has given us something to do, we need to look at it with open eyes. How will we accomplish this goal? What will it entail? Then we offer our plans to the Lord and rely on two things:
1. His wisdom
2. What the Bible says He has given us: power, love, and a sound mind
If we need wisdom, the Bible is clear that we can ask God and He will give it to us. But once we’ve asked and received an answer, we can’t doubt that wisdom (James 1:5–6). So it becomes a matter of trust.
Second, fear is a rotten partner and it does not come from God. Sometimes people equate fearful feelings to the Holy Spirit, but that isn’t a gospel model. God has not given us a spirit of fear, so we can’t allow fear to be our wisdom.
Fear and selfish ambition are very loud. They are internal drivers that create urgency and a perception of need and panic around us. Love, meanwhile, is quiet and patient, and it needs to be the “seat” from which we make decisions.
After we illustrated her situation, this student came up with a different plan. Yes, she needed to finish the school year, which meant that she would be in debt. But she built herself a new way of managing that debt and recovering more quickly.
No matter what financial situation you are in right now, you don’t have to stay there. You can ask God for wisdom and not respond in fear. As you follow your dreams, seek counsel and mentors who can help you. Lean on your Creator and expect His divine assistance.
For more information on getting out of debt, check out the following resources: