I Almost Didn’t Ask: Reflections from a Grateful Heart

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This is a must-read financial testimony, but don’t let the deadline pass on your debt forgiveness!

I logged on to studentaid.gov last month to learn about my student loan payment. I’d been hearing on the news that after a long hiatus due to COVID-19, student loan payments were resuming in October. I hadn’t gotten a single notice about mine, and I felt frustrated about having to search for the answer. Plus, I had trouble with my username and password, so it was with a feeling of mild annoyance that I finally reached the homepage, or the dashboard as it is called.

The message I saw displayed there though didn’t make sense:

“Your loan balance is $0.”

No explanation, no commentary, just one simple sentence. I blinked, shook myself to clear my head, and looked again.

“Your loan balance is $0.”

A small “View Details” button in the upper right-hand corner caught my eye, and I clicked on it. What I saw next was crystal clear:

“27 Loans, 4 Servicers. Total original amount awarded: $376,003. Your loan balance is $0. Loan information as of 01/11/2023.”

I was stunned, rendered utterly speechless.

It was as though I could hear the chains that had held the weight of debt in place in my mind for so long snap and could feel the immense load tumble from me.

It was not just that I had been forgiven—I had been forgiven so much! Though my original loans totaled less than one-third of the amount shown, the compiling interest had turned my debt into a monster to which I would have been forever strapped without some form of forgiveness.

The thing is, though, I almost didn’t ask.

Under the Wire

My mind flashed back to that night over a year ago when I pushed the Submit button on my application 10 minutes before the application deadline ended.

I had heard about the forgiveness program for those who had worked in a nonprofit for 10 years or more, but I didn’t believe anything good would come out of it for me. I’m not the type who wins awards, gets financial breaks, or pulls the winning card on just about anything. Whenever I run into something that seems to be too good to be true, it always turns out to be too good to be true for me, no matter how many testimonials there are on how it’s worked for others.

But on the last day of the application, a friend urged me to try. She said she had applied and that a mutual friend of ours had also done so and had his loans forgiven.

I had the required 10+ years of working for a nonprofit, but I had not made the minimum number of payments on my loan. Encouraged by her though, I read through the application materials and discovered that future payments would count so that when I finally reached that number, my loans would be forgiven. It was a government program, and no tricks were involved, so I decided to apply.

I held my breath that afternoon as I contacted two other universities just hours before they closed about getting the required verification paperwork—an almost impossible feat given the usual red tape involved in getting anything processed from one of the two universities in particular. Nevertheless, minutes before closing time, I had all the paperwork in hand. I still had a late evening class to teach and several time-sensitive tasks on my plate to tend to, though, so I didn’t start the actual application process until just after 11 p.m. Rushing my way through it as quickly as possible, I clicked Submit on my application at 11:50 on that final day.

Better Than That

Aside from receiving an acknowledgment of my submission and a couple of notices about the loans being transferred to a different handler, I heard nothing more, and soon put aside thoughts of the program. I had calculated that it would be at least four years, more likely six, before I reached the minimum number of required payments anyway. I decided to enjoy the Covid-induced break from the payments for as long as possible until I learned they were about to resume. That, in turn, led to the mind-blowing discovery that I had been forgiven.

Even while staring at the screen, first in disbelief and then utter amazement, I recognized a spiritual application rolling into my awareness like thunder.

God’s Word tells us to confess our sins and ask for forgiveness, but how many will lose out on this precious gift simply because they cannot believe they will be forgiven? Certain they are beyond hope, they refuse to ask. Yet, God and His Word are far more sure than any government program. He Who had the power to make every living thing and the love to give His only Son to die to redeem us is limited from forgiving us and removing our guilt only by our refusal to ask. Of course, He does not want us to take His forgiveness for granted, but any sincere request will be granted if we just ask. So, friend, if you have been putting off asking God to forgive you for something you’ve done and instead are carrying around the weight of what you owe, wait no longer to seek God’s forgiveness. Don’t let the deadline—that is, the end of the opportunity or desire to seek forgiveness—pass without submitting your request.

It took a bit longer for the second spiritual application to dawn on me. I had been forgiven since January 11, 2023. More than nine months had passed, and all that time, I still thought of myself as a debtor. How many of us have asked God for forgiveness but carry the burden of guilt and shame because we have not forgiven ourselves? We do not know or do not believe that God says he will remove our sins from us as far as the East is from the West, so we never release ourselves even though He has kept His Word. Again, if that’s you, friend, ask God to help you to let go of the past and walk forward out of the bondage of the past in into the freedom of mind, heart, and spirit that God wants to grant you no matter what you’ve done and regardless of the consequences that you may still be experiencing.

More than nine months had passed, and all that time, I still thought of myself as a debtor.

Speak Up Now!

The last lesson that came home to me was related to the fact that I ended up applying because a friend urged me to try and told me about our mutual friend’s experience. The Bible says, “And they overcame . . . by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony.” This verse suggests that as vital as Christ’s sacrifice is, sharing one’s experience in relation to it with others is equally vital. We all have influence, and we can choose to use it to help others find their way. Because I knew my friend and trusted her sincerity and because she said she had already applied* and shared our mutual friend’s experience, I was persuaded to explore the program for myself and ultimately apply. There’s someone out there who knows and trusts you and might be influenced to give God a chance if you tell them you’ve done it and what God has done for you and/or others who have tried Him. It doesn’t have to be anything grand or elaborate; you needn’t wait for special music or an alter call. Just speak up and share with someone what you know, and that may make all the difference in the world for them.

I might have missed out on being forgiven if my friend hadn’t spoken up, and I certainly would have if I hadn’t applied. And I couldn’t rejoice in the blessing of forgiveness that was already mine until I learned of the truth and embraced it. Wherever you are in your relationship with Christ or if you have yet to find one with Him, I hope something about my story will help, challenge, or bless you. There’s nothing like the joy of being forgiven, of knowing you are and embracing that gift, and then telling others how you’ve been blessed so that you can in turn bless them.

*NOTE: My friend also received forgiveness for her loans—about five months before I learned I had.

Rachel is Dean of the School of Journalism and Communication at Southern Adventist University and is a speaker, coach, wife, mother, and author of the book Born Yesterday: The True Story of a Girl Born in the 20th Century But Raised in the 19th, a new edition of which will be released on Amazon on December 7. Learn more at www.rachelwilliamssmith.com.

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