As I write this, I’m on a plane coming home from a No Debt No Sweat! Christian Money Management Seminar in Montana. The church was filled with sweet, godly people, but many of them were struggling with their money. I was touched by a couple of situations where people felt downright hopeless.

Not to be flip, but I’ve learned quite a bit over the years as I’ve counseled people about their money. I’ve learned that people who are in debt stay in debt for three reasons:

1. They feel hopeless. In truth, they usually are not hopeless. Most people who implement a solid plan can get out of personal debt (not counting their homes) in a one- to four-year period. Granted, there are huge benefits to starting early in life. But if you’re already in your late 40’s, 50’s or older — it’s still not too late to start. Remember, it’s never too late to start doing the right thing. (By the way, in addition to the financial implications in that last comment, there are also profound theological implications. The God we serve is not just the God of the second chance — He’s the God of the ten thousandth chance too).

2. They feel alone. This is where Satan does his best work — he convinces us that we’re the only one with the problem. So, naturally, we’re embarrassed and we try to hide the problem. We put on our masks and pretend like everything is okay. Yet, inside we’re dying. Our spiritual vigor is gone. We’re fighting with our spouses. We don’t have time for the kids. We can’t sleep at night, and we’re depressed.

The truth is, if you’re in debt, you’re not alone. Over 70 percent of all Americans are living from paycheck to paycheck. Many of us are spending 20 percent of our income paying off short-term, high interest rate debt. But, as long as the devil keeps us convinced that we’re the only one hurting — he wins.

Have you ever gone into a dark room and turned on a light to reveal a roach in the middle of the floor? What does it do the second the light hits it? That’s right — it runs for cover. Folks, the devil is a roach. When we begin to shine the light of Jesus on him — he scrams! As Christians we need to develop the type of fellowship that the Bible tells us to develop. We need to become each others’ best friends and confessional partners.

When we start to talk openly with each other, things change. Church is a lot more than sitting for an hour looking at the bald head in front of you. Church should be the place where we develop our closest friends and confidants. When we become involved and invested in one another — we’ll start to open up. We’ll start to admit, "I’m sitting bolt-upright in bed at three o’clock in the morning scared about my debts," "My spouse and I are at each others’ throats," and "I haven’t given anything at church in six months."

And, you know what the really neat thing is? There’s better than a 70 percent chance the person in the pew next to you will breath a sigh of relief and say, "Me too!" From there, we can begin to face the problems we felt were so insurmountable when we thought we were alone.

3. They feel dumb. It’s amazing how often people who discuss their debt with me stop and say, "I feel so stupid," or "I’m such an idiot."

Here’s the fact: Being in debt and being dumb are two entirely different things. As a matter of fact, it’s possible to be totally out of debt — and still be a really dumb person!