When debt weighs heavily

January is a difficult month for many people. Some suffer from seasonal affective disorder, sometimes known as “winter depression”. Others are anxious as credit card bills arrive reminding us of how much we spent at Christmas. At the end of December 2021 people in Britain owed £1,765 billion. This was £1213 more for each adult over the year. The average total debt per household, including mortgages, was £63,528.

Debt can become overwhelming and destructive. I remember visiting Bob. He had gone through the pain of divorce and had also lost his job. He was in serious debt. He hated the sound of the postman putting letters through his door because many of them were final warnings. If he didn’t pay what he owed his electricity, gas, and telephone would be cut off. He had no money to pay and had reached his overdraft limit at the bank.

One Friday he had gone to his bank hoping to draw out £20 to get some food. The cashier told him he couldn’t give him the money. Bob’s desperation must have been obvious to the cashier because, later that day, after the bank had closed, the bank manager brought some money to his house! I talked with Bob and discovered the full extent of his debts. Then I went with him to talk to the bank manager and, together, we agreed a way for his debts to be paid and for him to move to a smaller property which he could afford. The crushing burden of debt had been lifted from Bob and now he had hope for the future.

The Bible speaks about another debt we all owe. In the Lord’s Prayer we ask God “to forgive us our debts.” Every day we all break God’s commands and our debt to him accumulates. Sometimes our sense of guilt becomes overwhelming as we realise how our sinful patterns of behaviour are destroying our lives, and the lives of those we love. At such times we may feel utterly helpless, as Bob did when faced with debts he couldn’t pay. The good news is that Jesus came into the world to rescue us and to give us hope. By his death on the cross he paid in full the debt of our sins so that we can experience God’s forgiveness through him. One hymn says, “My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part, but the whole, was nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”

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