Updated: Jun 16, 2021
I recognized the voice on the other end of the call as that of Cathy’s. She was a young vibrant woman, in love with her husband, her family and her Lord. I always have time for Cathy. Today was no exception. “Of course,” I replied.
Cathy wasted no time as she began pouring out her heart. She had received devastating news from her doctor. She was trying to process the information that made no sense to her. Cathy had made all the right choices as a single woman. She continued to make the right choices as a married woman. This just couldn’t be happening to her, she cried.
Then her confusion turned to anger, bitterness, unforgiveness and finally rage. She remembered, her husband had made other choices before they were married. He had chosen to be a rebel, a prodigal of sorts. It had to be his choices for which she was now suffering!
I also heard her torment as she battled between her emotions (her heart) and her head. Cathy knew what she was supposed to do. She was a Christian so she HAD to forgive. But, emotionally, she just wasn’t there. She went back and forth directing her anger at the Lord and then at her husband. She wondered aloud, what good it was to obey the Lord, to live according to His values, only to suffer because of the sinful actions of her another - her husband?
I understood this question and Cathy’s emotions all too well. I experienced the same question, the same emotions, during my own marriage to the father of my children.
"What good was it to follow God’s principles only to suffer because of another person’s choices, another's sin?
Being financially responsible was very important to me. As a single person, I was careful to manage my money so as not to create new debt. My college loan was sufficient debt unto itself! I worked hard, managing my small income. I planned for most of my purchases. When I did have to make a credit card purchase I was careful to not spend more than I could pay off when the bill arrived in the mail.
When I met the man who was to become my husband, I was in pretty good shape financially having no debt but my college loan. It did not take long for me to realize, my fiancé and I did not share this financial value or approach. In fact, at one of our pre-marital counseling appointments, when asked what potential martial problems we saw could arise, my response was simply: “He likes to spend money. I like to save it.”
All couples have struggles. The different approaches to finances that my husband to be and I had certainly wasn’t a deal breaker. It did however, just as I speculated, become a source of conflict in our marriage. For my husband, living on credit was simply “the American way”. For me, it was digging a pit. My husband would spend when he wanted on whatever he wanted with the attitude that on tax return day, we would pay off our debt which for many years we did. Then we started the process over again.
Living this cycle of spending, racking up debt and paying it off at tax time eventually caught up to us. Eventually our needs and our debt grew larger then our tax return. But our lifestyle still didn't change. And neither did our spend and save relational conflict change. In fact, both grew more problematic.
The Debt Snowball
In the mid 80’s we moved from Texas to northern Virginia for a better more secure job. However, it didn't take long for us to realize that the cost of living almost doubled. It was quite the financial shock. My husband’s salary didn’t cover our basic living expenses. Consequently, I returned to workplace. Yet, despite to incomes it seems we still barely made ends meet.
There was a new problem. With two incomes, we could qualify for MORE DEBT.
Frustrated with me and what my husband thought was my tight grip on our family finances, he took a turn at managing our money. Unbeknownst to me, he applied for multiple credit cards. Then one day I came home to find a surprise. We had purchased a new car, a second car!
We were living well beyond our means. I didn't understand how it was possible until my husband explained that he was borrowing money from one credit card to pay off another. He kept the circular process going hoping that he could stay ahead of the game. He was, as the expression goes, borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. Sadly, he never got to the place where there was a zero balance on any credit card.
The many arguments followed. A lot of them, at the dinner table. No matter how much I hammered away at the illogic of my husband’s schemes, no matter how many times I warned him, he was determined to do it his way. After all, living on credit is the American way of life.
Then one evening as we were arguing over this financial plan, I clearly heard the Lord speak to my heart, “Be quiet. Let it go. Leave it to Me.”
And so I did.
The Creditors Came Calling… God’s solution
Finally, it all came crashing down. At dinner, one evening, my husband announced that the creditors have been calling. Our bills were over due. The new car was going to be repossessed. He had made an appointment with a lawyer and I needed to take the time off from work for the meeting.
I was devastated. I couldn’t believe my ears. Heartbroken, standing at the kitchen sink, I cried. This was not at all what I ever expected. Did God really say, “Leave it to Me?”
Through angry sobs, I said to the Lord, “Why do I have to suffer for my husband’s choices? I didn’t do anything wrong.”
His answer was simple, “My Son suffered for your sins which He did not commit.” And with that I knew, I had to forgive. I knew I had to lay aside concerns for my reputation, my pride and anger. It wasn't about me. It was about my husband, our family and the Lord. I I felt at peace in the middle of this difficult situation comforted by the idea that this was minor compared to what the Lord did for me. With the comfort He gave me, I was also able to comfort my young friend. (2Cor. 1:4)