4 Hindrances to Getting Out of Debt


The story of someone falling into debt is anything but a straight line. It’s a winding road marked by an occasional grocery overrun, impulse purchases at the electronics store, unplanned car repairs, and student loans that have been around since your 20s. 

It’s a vicious cycle as more and more of your income is required to service the debt while facing the pressure of an increasing cost of living.  As your financial margin dwindles, you do everything possible to push the demand for payments out as far as possible.

As the debt starts to accumulate, you might start to rationalize the debt as normal. After all, everyone faces the same economic pressures. Maybe you have kids and feel the pressure of their age to justify spending beyond your means. Maybe you feel pressure at the office to have the latest iPhone or a new car. But as the years go on, the stress slowly builds along with the credit card balance. You feel the stress build up in your muscles and the weight of it on your heart. You feel tense and short-tempered. You are frustrated and anxious. You feel scared.

The moment someone decides to get out of debt is also very different for each person or couple. For some, you hit a threshold where they can no longer tolerate seeing the outflow of what appears to be a never-ending stream of high-interest debt payments. For others, it takes one large or unexpected expense to finally reach the tipping point of conviction. You become resolved. You want out. And fast.

Hindrances to Getting Out of Debt

As you begin the journey to be debt-free, you might be tempted to combat your debt with only snowballs. But make no mistake, financial debt is a heart issue at its core and needs appropriate treatment to resolve. Paul David Tripp, in his book, Redeeming Money, wrote, “Money problems are heart problems. They are always about cravings that rule your heart” (32). Paul goes on to write, “This means that financial health and debt and trouble are the products of the meditations of your heart.” (47) 

We arrive at this place of debt because we have focused our eyes on consuming beyond our means. And to reverse this, we need to address the underlying heart issue from the start. If we ignore it, we run the risk of struggling to free ourselves from debt and make progress towards our financial goals. Consider these heart-related hindrances to getting out of debt:

1. Discontentment.

We train our hearts over many years to long for what others have. We see something someone else has and want it for ourselves. The solution to discontentment is a full measure of appreciation and gratitude for what God has provided. Paul told the church in Phillipi, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” (Philippians 4:11, ESV). Contentment is not something that comes naturally but rather learned through the grace and ministry of the Holy Spirit working in your life. When you are discontent, talk to a counselor or accountability partner and remember how God has provided for you in your circumstance today.

2. Guilt or shame.

A second common hindrance to getting out of debt is shame. Shame is a powerful enemy of our hearts and can paralyze us from making progress toward getting out of debt. You feel worthless and shameful for the position you put yourself and your family in. The sheer weight of your shame feels too heavy to discuss and, you keep the burden of your financial issues well hidden.

In his book, Shame Interrupted, Edward Welch does a great job applying a biblical treatment to our shame. You are not defined by your debt or your past decisions. You don’t have to allow this feeling of shame to hinder your debt-free journey. Understand the sufficiency of God’s grace that enables you to start a new chapter in your financial life marked by contentment, humility, and generosity.

3. Money idols.

It is clear from Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels that money and possessions pose a significant risk to the affections of our hearts. Jesus says in Matthew 6, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither most nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-20).  When we look at our financial condition and see debt, we must honestly assess the situation. Examine your heart with a trusted counselor or accountability partner to address the underlying heart condition.

4. Resignation or lost hope.

In many cases, getting out of debt takes several years of self-sacrifice to enable sufficient margin to overcome the debt. But when unexpected events or setbacks consume that margin, we can fall resigned to the notion that being debt-free is impossible. We lose heart, feel resigned, or maybe even feel hopeless. You will experience setbacks, but having your accountability partner encourage you during those moments is key to getting back up and sticking to the plan.

When talking about getting out of debt, we tend to speak about debt snowballs and emergency funds, but don’t ignore the underlying heart issues that can have a powerful impact on your ability to get out of debt. Getting out of debt means experiencing small wins every day as you turn your back on your desires with an eye and focus on a bigger purpose of impacting your family, community, and the world.

About the author: Nate Sargent serves as a financial counselor in the Greenwood, Indiana area. Nate holds an MBA from Colorado State University and a Certificate in Financial Planning from the Ron Blue Institute at Indiana Wesleyan University. Nate also holds an Electrical Engineering degree from Purdue University and has been in the aerospace industry for over 25 years.