This week we are looking at the Second D that describes those who have run to the wrong cave: The State of Debt.
The Second D: The State of Debt
The average debt in most American homes accumulates with interest rates so exorbitant that the sum will never be repaid. This ugly financial heap looms like a mountain on the horizon. And it is so imposing that bankruptcies occur at an alarming rate. This is exemplified by the following report, which cites rising bankruptcy filings from 2006-2010. With the current economic straits, there seems to be no end in sight:
Personal bankruptcy filings rose to their highest levels on record, with estimates in excess of 2 million filings. According to Lundquist Consulting, a research company based in California, there were 115,000 bankruptcy filings in November 2010. Year-to-date, there were 9 percent more bankruptcy filings by November 2010 compared to that same timeframe a year earlier. Nationally, there were roughly 6,000 bankruptcy filings per million individuals, or 1 in every 160 people.
This is staggering. Not only does this type of debt leave people’s bank accounts in poor health, it can adversely affect both physical and mental health as well. Depression, anxiety, digestive tract issues, migraine headaches, and ulcers are just some of the confirmed effects of adverse stress-related issues caused as a result of debt. Piling on, nearly one-third of states now allow creditors to sue individuals for defaulting on their debts, sending them to prison if they can’t pay. While debtor’s prison was officially outlawed in 1833, this is certainly a modern-day form of it and can bring a huge amount of stress to bear on any man who is trying to provide for and be a wall to his family.
Currently many men in our society can’t pay their debts and don’t know what to do. They might run to the wrong caves or maybe they just try to run aimlessly and not pay. They constantly look over their shoulder for the repo man and dodge phone calls because of the debt collectors’ repeated calls.
Assaulted and chased. I’m sure that these men could commiserate with David’s 400 as they escaped the debt collectors’ henchmen and hid deep in the cave at Adullam.
Sean, Linda, and the absence of a Fairy Tale
Sean was a guy who came to me and was living out the story of the men who showed up at the cave, running from their debts. He was a recovering addict who had met his wife, Linda, while they were both in the same recovery program. Both of them had found the Lord while they were in treatment, and the structure, transparency, and accountability offered in recovery was ideal for them.
They married soon after their graduation ceremony and started what they hoped would be a happy and peaceful life together. In addition to being a talented computer programmer, Sean was very entrepreneurial. Linda got pregnant with their first son soon after the wedding, and Sean got busy starting his first company. As the Internet continued to explode, Sean dreamed about and developed new products, and the money began to flow. Within another year, Linda was pregnant with their second son. Sean began to feel the pressures of a rapidly growing business, family, and the need to perform to keep up with the demands coming at him from every direction.
Knowing Where to Escape
Sean had the same root addiction that I had, the need to perform. But as a recovering addict, he also had some other addictions as well. Addictions to cocaine and prostitution had plagued him in the past, and with the demands in his life, he found himself beginning to wrestle with them again. As the pressure began to assault and chase him, Sean had no frame of reference for how or where to escape and hide so that he might hear from God. He didn’t know that God was with him, ready at any instant to pounce on him and smother him with grace.
When I met Sean, I had no idea all of this was going on in his life. He and Linda had recently come to our church and were referred to me for counseling by another pastor on staff. I invited Sean to come to a CaveTime that I was having at my house. He began to show up and just “be” with a band of men who would be his brothers, sharing his story of addiction with them and not being judged.
There’s no judgment in the cave—only accountability, grace, and more grace. Our motto is:
“What’s said in the cave stays in the cave.”
Sean certainly needed transparency with the security of confidentiality. He began to listen to the Scriptures we read together, with men worshipping quietly and then praying for each other’s stuff. He also began to hear those same men pray for their wives and their children, and his wife and his children, and whatever else needed to be given to God there in the cave.
I wish that I could say that everything got better and that we all lived happily ever after. But that’s not what happened. The guys in the cave were unaware, but in addition to his being assaulted by addiction, Sean had incurred some debts that were almost insurmountable. He was being chased by debt collectors, clients he wasn’t servicing, and some unsavory characters who wanted to do him some great bodily harm. He began running to the wrong caves, ones that were familiar to him. He ran to other women to try and ease the pain. He ran to cocaine to try and get a quick buzz that might help him forget. And he began to drink pretty heavily, too.
While Sean was running and trying to hide, Linda was at home with two sons and pregnant with a third. She had no food, no diapers, and no money to pay the bills. Sean would leave for days at a time and not tell anyone.
On one occasion, when he did come home, he was rightfully questioned rather passionately by Linda. Her questions angered Sean, he got physical with her, and the police were called. Because Sean had been in trouble before and was a convicted felon, he was taken to jail. He and I had CaveTime there, except this time he was wearing an orange jumpsuit and there was a glass window in between us. Yet God was there with us.
The Power of Fear and Debt
I read Sean Scripture over the telephone receiver, prayed for him— and then I got in his face. I told him that he wasn’t being a wall for his wife and his sons, and he was in jeopardy of losing them and everything that he loved. I asked him why he allowed himself to get to this point and he said, “I just didn’t know what to do as the debts mounted. I didn’t want to upset the guys in the cave, and I was being chased by all kinds of folks who wanted their money and the services that they had paid for. I wasn’t able to pay them, so I ran to what I had known in the past.”
When Lori and I moved away from that city, Sean was still running to the wrong caves, and Linda was in the process of trying to start a new life without him.
I know this isn’t a success story. But it does show the power of fear and debt, the relentless pursuit of a nasty enemy, and the danger of hiding in the wrong caves.
The guys hiding with David in the cave must have had some pretty significant debts to cause them to flee as they did. In David’s day, many people incurred debts, just as people do today. But the Hebrew word describing these men referred to a bad debt—one that was very late and was in serious default. This was the kind of debt that prompted someone to try to collect their money, or goods, or something—and it was going to happen today!
During David’s era, those who owed debt were also likely to receive all kinds of punishment from their creditors. A creditor could take property, family members, or even inflict severe bodily harm. Some of us know the pressure of collection calls, but thankfully we don’t live in a culture where one of our offspring could be taken as payment on a debt.
No One is Immune
Maybe you’re a young man and think you are immune to incurring such a deep level of indebtedness. Think again. The debt load carried by many college students is staggering. Currently, two-thirds of all college students carry some type of debt to finance their education, with the total amount borrowed in 2008-2009 being $75.1 billion. This was a dramatic 25 percent increase over the amount in the previous year. These types of debt loads make it almost impossible for many young men to finish their education and make ends meet. It has become such a problem that an increasing number of students are leaving the country and/or just not paying back their loans. As if student loan debt isn’t bad enough, in addition to these mounting debts, the average college-aged undergraduate is also amassing a sizable credit card balance that has increased 41 percent in the last seven years to $3,200.
Student loan and credit card debt plague and assault many young men with a pressure that is sizable and stressful. The pressure can drive them to the wrong caves. Young men, middle-aged men, and older men all have their own types of financial struggles and assaults that weigh on them and cause stress. Stress can make men of any age want to run! It can make us want to hide and feel as if we must escape to someplace.
Escape to the Right Cave
Broken and fearful. Ragged and torn. God is calling all men, in all conditions, to escape. Escape to the right cave, where He will be with you.