When Good Things Become Idols

Debt is not a good thing. I am ecstatic to be paying our student loans off. But I am also grateful we had them.

Through them God showed me that even a good thing, like living debt-free, can become an idol. It wasn’t a fun lesson.

Law School Journey

photo credit


Our story:

When Joshua and I got married, law school was not on our radar. Health complications barred our original plans and the idea of law school surfaced.

God opened doors, we moved across the country and Joshua started law school.

Shortly before we moved I stumbled across Crystal’s (from Money Saving Mom) original blog. She and her husband had made it through law school without student loans. Their story was so inspirational and I wanted to follow their example.

A non-traditional college course allowed us to earn bachelor’s degrees without student loans. We moved into a very small, cheap apartment. We shared a car. We ate simply. Surely we could graduate law school debt-free too.

As we neared the end of his first year though, nothing seemed to be going right. Savings were running low. I tried numerous avenues, but couldn’t find work I could do from home. I was pregnant with our second child and (highly) emotional.

Josh had worked incredibly hard in school, made excellent grades and was involved in student activities. He applied for summer work and I was confident he would be hired immediately.

He wasn’t.

As the weeks dragged on, I got more and more worried and emotional. I prayed and I pleaded and I cried.

After all, wasn’t getting work a good thing? It wasn’t like we were asking for a Mercedes or anything. The economy was bad, but was I really asking for too much? We just wanted work so we could avoid debt.

God said “no.”

I was devastated.*

In case you didn’t notice,  was the one who was having a hard time here. Josh worked and prayed, but didn’t worry and certainly didn’t cry. Over and over he told me, “Honey, God knows what is best for our family.”

God does know what is best. He knows what we need.

Why I [now] am grateful for student loans

Debt-free living had become my idol. Pride motivated my zeal. I didn’t want loans in our story. I wanted to be able to write a “how to do law school without loans” guide.

God in His wisdom said “no.”

“The borrower is servant to the lender” Proverbs says. But God can use debt to showcase His glory (like in the story of the widow’s oil) or to purify us.

By focusing so hard on avoiding student loans, I let the pursuit of debt-free living choke out the Word. God used those loans to show me that even good things can become idols. As thrilled as I am to be paying off our loans, I am grateful that loans were part of our story.

No matter where we are on the financial journey, whether we haven’t touch debt with a ten-foot pole, are buried in debt, or are just trying to live faithfully with little, God writes the details of our story for a reason.

No two stories are the same. That is part of the wonder of life in His world. He is the Master Storyteller!

[* Want the happy ending? Later that first summer, God did provide work for me to do from home. Joshua was funded to volunteer in an area he felt passionate about. Though we still had student loans when Joshua graduated, we are sending in the final payment this month!]

Linked up at Handful of Heart, Teach Me TuesdaysGratituesdayEncourage One AnotherWomen Living Well

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  1. says

    This is another great post. I wish that someone would have had a talk with me about “debt” when I was younger, especially about student loan debt. Also, if I had known then, what I know now, then I would have worked to pay for college…but I’ve learned my lessons 🙂 🙂 If I ever have kids, I’m definitely going to teach them the ins and outs about money 🙂 Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather 😉

    • anna says

      Thanks Heather! We have been blessed with kids, and I too hope to teach them to be wiser with their money–but also to never let it take too exalted a place, like I did! Blessing to you. 🙂

  2. Jenni / Life from the Roof says

    I agree – great post. I really do enjoy your writing, Anna. My husband always is the steady one too. We remind ourselves constantly that “God will take care of us” and work things out even if we can’t see how. It’s so tempting to want a quick and predictable answer to how we will pay for our own law school journey, but I have a feeling it won’t be something straightforward.

    • anna says

      Aren’t steady, faithful husbands *such* a blessing?

      I know Jenni! I’m praying that as this chapter of your life unfolds, God’s handwriting will be clearly seen.

  3. Kasey says

    What a beautiful testimony! I am so happy for you that this chapter of debt is closing and you are able to take with you the lessons He had for you!!

    • anna says

      Thanks Kasey! I wish I could confidently say that I’ve mastered the lesson on idolatry, but God’s mercies are never-ending and I’m so glad He keeps working on me. 🙂

  4. says

    I certainly am thankful that God writes each and every story just a little differently than any other. He knows what is best for each one to make us more like Him. 🙂

    By the way, the first part of your story was posted today on my blog. 🙂 The first story, not the last one.

  5. says

    Thanks so much for sharing this today! My husband and I also have debt unfortunately from both of our bachelor’s degrees! Since graduating I have felt at times that maybe we made some huge mistakes and get really upset and then I remember praying for weeks for God’s direction. I remember feeling so at peace in the decisions that he was leading us in. I too make idols out of being out of debt.

    It’s SO easy to compare ourselves to so and so down the street who did it debt free or with less debt. But we can’t and I think I’m in the same boat as you. I came over from the These Five of Mine link up today, so glad that you linked up!

    And congrats on sending in your last payment!! We still have a LONG way to go before that happens for us 😉 Thanks for the inspiration today!

    • anna says

      So glad it was an encouragement to you. God does lead each of us down different paths. Like you said, it’s so easy to look at someone else’s course and get jealous. But He writes each story perfectly–even when the details are not what we would have chosen.

      Thanks! We are thrilled. Hope the day arrives for you sooner than you think. 🙂

  6. says

    Wow this is definitely a wonderful post reminding us to be careful when it comes to making idols of anything. This is not hard to do at all, but God is always merciful, even when we disobey. It is so easy for anything to become an idol, or for pride to take over. I was very inspired to see how God worked out your debt in his own time and showed you humility in the process. this was a wonderful post all around. 🙂

    Stay blessed,

    • anna says

      God is SO good and SO patient with me. It is humbling to see just how easily I let my eyes turn to things of this world. He is so good to draw me back.

  7. says

    Anna, I’ve been learning this too. My Joshua and I are both in college and working–and money is tight. But God’s been teaching us so much about faith and trusting him and each other. It’s not been easy, but it’s been good. 🙂

  8. says

    Very balanced thinking. I remember well the day we sent in the last payment on my husband’s school loans. Taking them was a good investment for us and allowed me to stay home with our children while he was in medical school.

    • anna says

      I agree! Much as I wanted to avoid loans altogether, it was the best thing for our family! Thanks for stopping by and sharing. 🙂

  9. says

    And this is the post that drew me here! I have really wrestled with the idea of being debt-free. We have minimal debt, try to avoid debt while we can. We do hope to one day be debt-free. It’s been tough while dealing with unemployment in a tough economy. A few friends who have gotten “gazelle-instense” about their finances often strike me as prideful and obsessed with pinching every penny, and hardly sensitive toward our difficult financial circumstances. We didn’t ask to be laid off. Jesus does call us to avoid debt, but the fruit I see in my friends’ lives as a result of being debt-free is really rotten. Your take on this is so balanced–so very much a refection of Ecclesiastes 3. To everything a season.

    Thanks for writing this!

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