Feeling financially weighed down by student loan debt is a unique experience that I don’t wish on anyone.
I know because in 2011 I graduated with $206k of student loan debt from undergrad and law school. I’m down to $122k now, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about my debt. Almost everything I do revolves around paying off my student loans. I honestly do not know how I will become the wealthy person that I want to be so badly one day.
So, I get it. I really understand what you are going through. This letter is specifically for people who have massive student loan debt. If you have massive student loan debt, I want you to know that I understand what you are going through. And I don’t have a solution. I want to be debt free tomorrow just like you do.
But I do have a few words of encouragement for you.
Last week, I was listening to Andy Stanley’s Your Move podcast, where he was talking about being in a stage of life that is less than ideal – an “in the meantime” phase where you are struggling and there’s not that much you can do about it (like being in massive student loan debt). To be able to live in this “in the meantime” moment and still do amazing things and be content is the goal. Andy talks about it in a religious context, but I want to share it in the context of finances. Andy said:
Even in the midst of the most incredible adversity, there is a way to find contentment. Contentment is when something on the inside is at peace even when everything on the outside is going crazy. Contentment is the ability to stop striving internally, even though things on the outside are out of control.
Andy talks about how The Apostle Paul, while in jail, wrote the letters that now make up so much of the New Testament in The Bible. These letters weren’t meant to be incredible. They were just written while Paul was imprisoned. Paul was in an “in the meantime moment” and had no idea what hung in the balance. The point that Andy makes is that you have no idea what God is doing and what He is up to while you’re in your “in the meantime moment”.
Often, it is within the context of adversity that God does the most amazing things. The worst thing we can do is to give up. Instead, try to find peace and contentment in the midst of adversity that is your student loan debt.
The goal is to be internally self-sufficient; to not be stressed; to not strive; to not run; and to learn contentment in the middle of your massive student loan debt.
Andy says that the way to find contentment in the midst of your adversity is what Paul tells us to do in The Bible, which is the famous quote that “I can do all things, through Christ who gives me [His] strength.” (The “His” is added because Paul is not describing your strength, but Christ’s strength.) There is a mystery about being a follower of Jesus that empowers you and that helps you. So, if you are a Jesus follower, believe that God is at work. It is through His strength that you can find contentment – rich or poor, in good health or sick, and with or without student loan debt. You can be just as content with student loan debt as you can be without it.
Consider adopting a new mindset toward adversity. Instead of assuming the worst, consider the possibility that your adversity will be the source of something good. Let your student loans be the adversity that will be the source of something good in your life. Practice contentment while you’re “in the mean time” and paying off your debt.
Trials produce perseverance. You can persevere through adversity. Let perseverance finish its work. Your greatest tension can be the focal point of activity in your life if you allow perseverance to finish its work.
Your perseverance will leave you in a better place than before you started. There is something about perseverance that will make you stronger. You will be a more mature, deeper person.
Your journey can empower you and others. You can be awing and inspiring. You can face adversity and come out a better person.
Let this be your debt story — not one of defeat and hopelessness.