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God’s Strategy to Escape $119,000 of Debt

Michael and Sonya Pope consider themselves a team and do everything together. But for years, this wasn’t the case—especially when it came to their debt.  

Sonya explains, “The two of us decided to be hamsters on wheels in two separate cages. So, we didn't talk about the debt, even though we both were aware that it was there.” 

The financial pressure kicked-in after they had their third son, and Sonya left her job to be a stay-at-home mom. It ramped up when they decided to buy a new house, before selling their condo.

“We had two mortgages to deal with, we had condo fees in our condo. We had to pay utilities in our condo as well,” says Michael. 

The couple thought nothing about using credit cards to provide a nice life for their kids. 

“Our spending habits continued and actually they increased because you know, kids are expensive, right?” remarks Michael.

Sonya admits, “Some of those choices were maybe not relying so much on God to provide, but on MasterCard and Visa or you know, our credit cards to provide for things where we felt like we were lacking. We didn't think that credit cards were bad.”

Michael is an I.T. developer and has always made good money, so he thought he could independently out-earn their debt. Then one Christmas, they couldn’t afford gifts for their boys—and Sonya suggested that she go back to work.

“The thought of her having a job outside the home, I mean, that made me feel really bad as a husband,” confesses Michael. He continues, “I'm supposed to be the provider of the household.”

Meanwhile the bills kept coming. They knew something had to change when the family took a road-trip and their radiator overheated. They had to call their credit card company to increase their limit, just to get home.  

Michael shares, “I remember breaking out in tears asking God, you know like, ‘What are we doing wrong?' He showed us, you know, we weren't being good stewards of our money. We hadn't been, you know, sold out for God and really trusting God to provide for us, because we were still in our own head.” 

Since the Popes had never added up the magnitude of their debt, they didn’t realize they were $119,000 in the hole.

“It literally took our breath away,” Sonya exclaims. “And we thought maybe we had made a mistake, a miscalculation.” 

Michael says, “We were like, ‘Are we ever going to be able to pay this off?’ You know and that's when you start having thoughts like, ‘Do we file bankruptcy?’ You know, ‘Do we walk away from the condo?’” 

Together, they committed to a financial plan based on God's principles. It included budgeting, spending less and selling unnecessary possessions—as well as tithing and giving, things they’d been doing, but with the wrong motivation.

“We were doing our tithe, but we weren't giving with the right heart,” Michael admits.  

Sonya tags on, “When we started having financial difficulty, it started feeling like an obligation, really wasn't joy.”

“God wants us to be cheerful givers. He doesn't want me to give just for recognition or so I could feel good about what I’m able to give,” Michael shares. “Part of generosity is me taking my eyes off myself and putting them on other people.”

Putting God first changed their perspective on tithing, giving, and serving.

Sonya says, “We were excited, because it was the first thing on our budget list.” 

Michael contributes, “I mean we were just focusing and cheerfully helping people out.” 

It was only after they stopped giving out of obligation that things turned around. Their condo quickly sold, and Michael got a huge bonus!

“Our heart became more joyful towards the Lord, and just thankful,” Sonya exclaims. “And we just kept saying, you know, ‘We've been blessed this way so that we can give back.'”

“You know, we give God all glory,” Michael says. “We wrote the largest tithe amount that we had given to our church ever in our lives.”

Right after that, they were able to pay off the rest of their debt in 11 months — 6 months earlier than expected.

“It felt so amazing because I was like, 'God, you did that.' That wasn't us because on paper, we should have still been in debt,” smiles Sonya. “We're so excited to be able to free up our money from debt, so that we can bless others, too, the way we've been blessed.” 

Michael adds, “It's a great feeling to be a great example for our kids and our family and just to have that peace and stress-free life.”

For anyone with financial problems, the Popes suggest surrendering to God like they did—and giving from a cheerful heart.

“Prove God,” Sonya concludes. “The Creator and the Provider of all things will do exceedingly more than you could ever think, ask or imagine.”

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