Will I ever pay off all this debt?
That’s what I was begging God in 2014 at the altar at church.
It was one of the hot ugly cry moments. My husband and I had decided to get organized and clean up the few student loans we had here and there. So we’d pulled some records, did some third grade math, and found that we owed $44,000 dollars. Forty-four thousand dollars! That was a fortune to me. I made $35K. I showed my man my abacus, hoping he’d find where I had counted some account twice. To my horror he said “That can’t be right, you forgot about the federal loans.” I went back and re-totaled everything up. $77 thousand dollars!? I showed him our list. Though tears I managed to ask him how we were going to possibly ever be free of all of this?
He looked me in the eye and didn’t answer my question. He looked at the total and said those words again. “This cannot be right.”
He knew what I could not admit in that moment. We had borrowed up to our necks. When we sat down and totaled everything up, we owed $154,000 dollars. I didn’t make a tenth of that! I had already cried all my tears a hundred thousand dollars ago. We needed a miracle.
We were not unique in our financial mess.
Prayers for a financial miracle seem to be more and more common. The average student loan burden is more than $30K, with monthly payments clocking in at $393 a month. Credit cards have reached an all time high, car loans last up to 84 months now, and headlines are peppered with suspicions about an impending housing bubble. So we worry at work, at the store, at the soccer game, on the zoom meetings, and if the headlines and tars you and I have probably cried are any indication. We truly needing a financial miracle: Maybe you’ve asked yourself these other questions “When will these creditors stop calling?” “Can we ever get caught up on these bills?” “Will we ever stop fighting over money?”
I’m Kati Hyer, and my husband and I did end up paying off all of our debt.
Along our painful journey we learned a lot, so I’ll guide by teaching the three things you must do when you need a miracle in your money. You don’t have to be in a student loan crises to gain from this lesson. Maybe you need a financial miracle to catch up on retirement, or to finally get that downpayment for a house of your own. Maybe you desperately want yo send you children to that school but the numbers don’t add up yet.
Whatever it is, People voice these “will I ever” questions when they feel hopeless. Chances are, you or someone you know is asking these types of questions. That’s because in America today, eight out of ten families in our neighborhoods are living paycheck to paycheck. It’s not wonder then that The second leading cause of divorce is fighting over money – and after 2020, financial troubles are greater than ever before for hundreds of thousands of people. They are desperate.
Brokenness, shame, overwhelm. Financial desperation is rampant.
I have good news thought. Desperation is common, and the Bible is full of stories of God rescuing desperate people in miraculous ways
If you have ever felt crushed by money mistakes, the Bible is chockablock full with stories of God rescuing desperate people in miraculous ways. The good news is His word says he has plans for a hope and future for us, too, and we can take lessons from these scriptures and apply them to our own lives. Here’s one of my favorite examples found in the second book of 2 Kings, chapter 4.
4 The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.”
2 Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?”
“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”
3 Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. 4 Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”
5 She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. 6 When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.”
But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.
7 She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”
Let me sum up. Elisha was a prophet and wonder-worker in ancient Israel. One of his students died, living behind the student’s widow and two sons. The widow came to Elisha in one of these moments of pure desperation. As it turns out, she and her husband were in a lot of debt. After his death, the bankers of ancient Israel called their loans but the widow couldn’t pay them back.
According to the custom of that day, if she couldn’t pay her debts in cash, she’d pay in hard labor, so her debtors were going to take her two young sons as slaves. We know they were young sons 7, 6, 5 years old maybe? Because they lived with her, Since these boys lived at home instead of as apprentices with shepherds, carpenters, or other tradesmen, we know they were young. In other words, she was in a panic. We pick up her story once she has rushed to the Prophet’s home and told him of her family’s impending ruin.
The 2 Kings Widow and the miracle of the oil
Let’s read in in layman’s terms. “Tell me, what do you have?” Elisha asked our desperate friend.
“Nothing, nothing but a jar of olive oil,” she responds. I hear her voice crack every time I read this part of the scripture. Can you imagine the empty pantry? I can.
“Go, ask every one of your neighbors and friends for their empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside the house and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”
She does as Elisha asks. In their home with the door shut, the sons and the mother are working tirelessly together. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to one of her sons, ‘Bring me another one.”
The son responds “We’re all out.” The KJV version reads “Then the oil stayed.”
She went and told the Prophet, and he said “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what remains.”
Did you just read what I read?! Incredible. A wife fresh in the middle of her grief starts off her day in pure desperation, thinking this might be the last day she sees her sons, and ends it with God’s financial miracle. The oil is enough not only to pay off their debts, but it’s enough for the three of them to live on after. Haven’t you been in situations where you needed this kind of miracle?
3 key things for a financial miracle from the widow and her miracle of olive oil
“That’s nice for her but I wish I could have a financial miracle, too!’ You say. “I’d like to wake up tomorrow with a raise, my mortgage paid off, and a pile of lottery winnings. That would be miraculous!” But the widow doesn’t wake up one day to see a house filled with oil. She wakes up to a terrifying reality, and does three things that change her future. Three things that we can do too. The keys to getting out of debt are the same three things to do today for a financial miracle, and the widow’s story illustrates them for us:
Let’s jump into The first thing needed for her financial miracle: Faith.
Our heroine’s faith sent her back to the source, the Prophet Elisha. We can go to the source by directly seeking the Father.
Now how is her vision when she leans into her faith? Is it clear or cloudy? The Widow goes to the prophet and in her desperation, all the woman could see was the symbol of her poverty – a small jar of oil. She sees reminders of what she lacks, of what she oes not have. In his response, Elisha clarifies her vision. He reminds her of what she does have: Remember what he says? Go to your friends, your neighbors, and go to your house with your sons. She had much more than just a small flask of oil. She had resources, family, and community.
Sometimes in our prayers, God will reveal new things to us that we couldn’t have seen on our own.
This is why it is so important to be a part of a church, grow in a small group, and spend time in the word, in prayer, seeking Jesus. We prayed for deliverance and provision, and we asked for prayer at church and in our small groups and that became so important to strengthening us for what was to br a long journey. We need the word of God to be a light to our feet (Psalm 119:105).
The widow goes to Elisha, the man of God for help. Through Christ we can speak directly to the father through prayer. So pray! In Ephesians 3:20 we are told that God can do exceedingly abundantly above more than we could ever ask or even imagine, so start asking Him. We can ask confidently for help, blessings, growth, and answers to problems, vision, encouragement because we know God wants to give us great gifts (Matthew 7:11). Plus we know that God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9) and how can we know his ways if we aren’t seeking his voice? We also know that we must seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33) For a financial miracle, you have to go to the source first. So # 1. Lean into faith. That’s the first thing,
Secondly. The second thing she needed in her financial miracle: Community.
The second lesson we must apply is the importance of community. The widow found guidance from Elisha, her sons worked alongside her, and where did the jars come from? Her friends and neighbors. God worked a miracle for her through the combined support of her pastor, her family, her friends, and her neighbors. Her community.
When we live in real community with others, God can move. I have heard stories of people who gifted a car to a young couple working out of their debt. I have seen entire houses furnished with second-hand furniture when the family was new to twon and getting their feet under them. We’ve all seen examples of neighbors helping neighbors when a tree falls after a storm. What about in our careers? They say ‘it’s not what you know but ‘who you know.’ These life connections are critical. Our community was so important to us as we encouraged each other as we paid off loan after aggravating loan, swapped babysitting with other couples so we could go to work or enjoy a rare date night free of kids at home, and enjoyed free outings like backyard bonfires, game nights, and potluck dinners.
Humility paves the way for connection
Sometimes it’s difficult to share your financial truth. Your financial straights. Your financial goals. However, the widow is an example of humility paving the way for connection in community. She wanted her sons’ freedom more than she wanted to keep her embarrassment hidden. Remember she didn’t just have a jar of oil on her credit card – She had to knock on the door of one of the nation’s leaders and say she’s in so much debt that the repo man was going to take her sons as slaves. Then, he tells her to go be vulnerable and tell all her friends and neighbors what had happened.
Her public vulnerability pays off. Look what happened! She got the jars from the friends and neighbors, and her sons helped her pour the oil. That’s how God chooses to work his miracles: Through others.
What does that look like for you practically speaking? If a you need a financial miracle, You may need to tell your friends you’re paying off your debt, and you’ll see them at the class reunion the year after this. You may need to ask your family for prayers, references for a new job, or career advice (Proverbs 15:22 says Plans go wrong without talking together, but they will go well when many wise men talk about what to do.).
What about community at work?
It may be that you tell your coworkers that you need to hit a retirement goal, and eating out isn’t an option, but would they like to do a brown bag lunch together this month instead?
We are made to be in community. God made man, then said “it is not good for man to be alone.” After pthe pandemic forced us into a reality of remote work and work from home, lots of people are dealing with depression. A huge part of this is we miss the community of school, the office, church, and social gatherings. We are communial creatures!
Finally, if you may not see yourself as the woman who needed the miracle in this scripture, you may be the friend and neighbor supporting the person in your life who does. Either way, community is integral to the miracle. So lean in to community. Your action item here is to do one of those suggestions: find free ways to connect with friends, or if a woman in your life represents the widow, find ways to offer your empty olive oil jars.
Be vulnerable, so you can be honest with your people and lean into community.
The third thing God will use for your financial miracle: work. So re-envision work, and ;ean into that too.
Let’s recall the scripture: As soon as instructed, our desperate heroine leaps into action.
When you hear wisdom, be obedient. The Bible says to work like crazy if you’re in debt to pay it all off.
Allow no sleep to your eyes,
no slumber to your eyelids.
Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,
like a bird from the snare of the fowler.Proverbs 6:5-7
Thessalonians says “Work not, eat not.”
Rabbi Daniel Lapin says that part of the reason that modern Jews tend to prosper financially is because they are taught that God is most pleased when we spend our time being obsessed about serving His children. Put it another way: work is serving others, bringing value to others, and helping others, and money comes from work. So serve others with work.
What kind of pots are you asking for?
The first action the Widow took was to ask for empty pots. What are the pots you’re asking for? Those oil flasks can symbolize opportunities for us today, and you can find them by texting your friends and neighbors some pots-of-opportunity questions. For instance: “Do you know anyone hiring? Have you seen any lawns that need to be mowed? Can I do your taxes, or a family photoshoot, your Quickbooks, or fix your computer, or do your taxes, or… , or… , or….” be creative!
When we were paying off our debts, My husband worked at Starbucks in the morning apple in the daytime, and melting pot at night. I’d wake up at 3 in the morning to each english online, then my kids would get up and I’d take them to school and go to my 9-5. While I was at work, I was dog sitting at my home, and over my lunch break I’d come home and let dog clients out or drive Uber. And then I’d drive Uber on the weekends, too.
A friend of mine said her first business was creating beautiful artisan headbands when the bran she loved was selling them for $60 a piece. She had no problem selling them for $20 each and making a profit.
There is a side hustle out there for you to do, too. And we juggled raising our four little kids while working two, three, sometimes four extra jobs in our journey paying off our six figures of student loans. So ask for empty pots.
Work is more than just your job
The answer to paycheck-to-paycheck living isn’t to pray for payday’s speedy arrival, it’s to earn an income, live on less than you make and, have a plan ahead of time for every dollar you earn. I know that some people don’t like the word budget for the emotional baggage it can carry, so feel free to swap out the word budget for cash flow plan, or financial blue print, or monthly money itinerary, it’s just a plan, and Jesus loved budgets, too. Luke 14:28. And budgets are work. They take effort, intentionality, discipline to say no to good things so you can say yes to the great things.
The work component in the miracle cannot be skipped. Work diligently to earn more money. Do the mental work of writing a budget. Do the administrative work of getting organized, finding every bill to your name, and calling your creditors to get on a payment plan. Then work diligently to keep your expenses as low as possible. Ifd you raise your income but you don’t learn to control your outgo, you’ll just be spinning your wheels.
God takes care even of the sparrows, but they don’t sit in the nest waiting for a divine hand to fling birdseed in it. We have to do the work for a financial miracle.
Can I really ever pay off all this debt? You can lay the groundwork by leaning into three things for a financial miracle
If you’re facing a desperate situation financially, and you don’t know where to turn, the widow and her jar of oil can be an empowering, encouraging example for us to follow. Her story teaches us to lean into our faith and seek the source; lean into our community; and lean into work.
We didn’t know what we were going to do that day when we stood at the altar and begged God to rescue us from financial ruin.
That same weekend I was tearing through couch cushions, digging in jeans pockets, sear hing desperately in the car for loose chance. Because eI needed to do coin laundry to wash cloth diapers, and I need milk for my baby. But my husband and I only had $7 in our account. We could not do both. That was another hot, ugly cry moment of desperation. We didn’t know at that moment how God as going to rescue us from financial ruin. But he did!
And he can do it for you too!
God is a God of miracles. He did a financial miracle for the 2 kings widow. We totaled up our debt payoff, and after interest, penalties, and fees, God allowed us to pay off what amounted to nearly $200,000. A miracle indeed! He can do miracles for you, too. Just remember the widow, who didn’t know what to do until she leaned into faith, who thought in her grief she had nothing and no one until she was reminded she had family, friends, and neighbors, when she leaned into community, and who thought she could do nothing until the prophet instructed her to lean into that work
When you need a miracle in your money, Remember to lean into your faith, lean into community, and lean into work.