You wait for a friend at a coffee shop. You wait for the doctor to call you out of the waiting room. You wait for the video to finally load. We loathe waiting, yet life is full of it.
The stakes are raised higher when waiting for something less trivial than streaming or coffee. How about waiting to get married, for a job promotion, or for test results for a major health scare? Consider the words of the Psalmist, for those who wait:
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
– Psalm 27:14
But how are you to “take courage” if you have student debt, and are waiting to go overseas to be a missionary? Today, over 45 million Americans face student debt. If you’re an American, it’s likely that you too have student debt. If God directs you to be a missionary, you’re probably thinking that what makes sense is to not wait but to take action. Shouldn’t we consider those still “waiting” to hear the gospel, perhaps for the first time?
While a yes or no answer to these complicated questions may be too simplistic, the Bible provides us with a guiding principle. God has unlimited resources at his disposal, but this does not release us from the responsibility to repay our debts.
Almighty God is the Generous Owner
We frequently guide our three children toward the principle of ownership: “Everything you have belongs to God.” We tell them of Psalm 24:1:
The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,
This means that everything we have—our money, possessions, relationships, real estate, career, and even our very bodies—belongs to God. We are merely temporary managers of these great gifts.
God has unlimited resources at his disposal, but this does not release us from the responsibility to repay our debts.
This also means that our great King has access to resources that he can release to us at any time. This isn’t prosperity thinking (“God owes me this, and will give it to me if I obey”) but biblical ownership (“God owns this, and can do with it as he pleases”).
Given the breadth of his resources and the majesty of his sovereignty, and given our dependence on him in life and in the mission field, student debt is a key opportunity to ask God show his provision. You can come to him in prayer and ask him to relieve you of this burden—it might just be a way for you to start experiencing his miraculous provision.
You Have a Responsibility as a Debtor
While God may send aid to you in a most unexpected way, He also may choose not to do so. For the sake of your sanctification, he may allow you to endure the long and arduous process of paying off your student debt, one month at a time, for many years.
The Scriptures clearly command the repayment of debt:
Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
– Romans 13:7
Considering the average college graduate takes 21 years to pay off their student debt, you may be in this for the long haul. But take courage, there are countless stories of those who put their student debt to death in two or three years by making war on it.
If this is the pathway the Lord has for you, remember that it is for your sanctification, and paying off your debt is noble. This suffering will most certainly produce perseverance, character, and hope in you (Romans 5:3–5).
Your Options as an Aspiring Missionary
Many mission agencies will not help you go overseas with a large student debt balance. While this a frustrating barrier for many, this roadblock is in place for a good reason—to prevent missionaries from going overseas, who may need to return early because of their student debt burden.
Though the Bible commands borrowers to repay their lenders, it also leaves room for your debts to be repaid by someone else. There are several good pathways to invite others to share a load of your student debt and to allow you to go overseas sooner.
- The Go Fund will take over student debt payments for approved missionaries going overseas long term, to an unreached people group, through their local church.
- MedSend awards four-year grants to repay the student debt of healthcare professionals working in underserved areas.
- Your Church: Perhaps your church, or a family member, would consider paying off a portion of your student debt if you have a captivating vision of what you believe God is directing you to do with your life.
Waiting can be quite painful, and seemingly endless. Repayment of our debts is not optional—it is mandatory. However, perhaps there is another like-minded party who can help to repay your debt for you and remind you of the debt your great Savior paid for you on that old rugged cross.
Take hope: God has unlimited resources—so ask the Lord of abundance to provide for your debt––but remember to take courage, and trust his plan, even if he tells you to “wait.”