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Suffering in Seminary

Life does not go on pause once you begin seminary. If anything the difficulties seem to be amplified at times.

Within the last month three of my classmates have had to withdraw for the semester. One because of financial reasons, another for health issues, and the last due to the loss of his child.

It’s a harsh reality to think that even as we make all the sacrifices necessary to pursue this calling, the road remains difficult and seemingly impossible at times.

I find myself hitting the wall and asking God, “Isn’t this you? Weren’t you the one who brought me into this place? Now why does it feel like you’re doing everything possible to get me to quit?”

You’re not alone. Those words are small but they can mean the world to someone who is struggling. As someone who has struggled and is currently walking with a number of people who are struggling I wanted to offer a few words of encouragement/advice.

Be Open

Nobody wants people to know that they are struggling. Maybe its pride, maybe its for our own protection, or maybe we think they just won’t care. Whatever the reason may be, people have a tendency to close themselves off from the world when things get rough. It’s my problem and I’ll deal with it on my own.

But that strategy simply doesn’t work. Anyone who has struggled significantly will agree. Always trying to carry your own burdens has a profound negative effect on your health – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We were created for each other. Part of any good seminary training will be to convince you of the necessity and beauty of church. It’s there for a reason. The people of God are around you for a reason. Now it’s your choice whether you will open yourself up to them or not.

Sometimes just voicing your suffering can begin the healing process.

Take a Break 

This is a hard one for me to present because I know how stubbornly I refuse this option at times. Life is not a race, seminary is not a drag strip. Honestly there are no rewards for rushing through experiences and seasons in life. If anything, you will end up being at a loss because you were so focused on finishing you barely had the opportunity to learn.

Taking a break will look different for different individuals. For some it will be small, like taking a weekend to travel, or a few days off work to reset your mind. For others it will be more substantial, such as taking a semester or year off from your education. There is no scale here, its all about what you can handle and what you need to do for yourself.

God rewards the good and faithful servant, but faithful does not have to mean exhausted and stressed. Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap.

Ask For Help

Here it is, the ultimate test of humility. We are human – sinners saved by grace by a great Savior for a beautiful cause. We are called out of the world and into a family. There are no lone rangers for Christ (but if you do meet one, keep an eye on your wallet).

God intended for us to need each other. That is why he created us differently with unique gifts and backgrounds, talents and desires. To not ask for help is to miss one of the most exceptional parts of being a Christian – watching how God works through other people to meet needs.

Keep your eyes and ears open, and if the situation arises, keep your hands open as well. Don’t be afraid to ask for help because someday you might be the one helping them.

Remember: It Gets Better

The road is long and hard but the land is paved with both valleys and mountaintops. Today is not forever. Remember that when it feels like the entire world is against you.

God is working, even this, for the good of those who love him.

Written by David Ramos. David is a friend of God and a lover of the Old Testament. When he is not working on his M.Div at Ashland Seminary you can find him teaching Sunday-school or cooking pasta. You can read more from David at OffsetInnocence or connect with him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives and works in Cleveland, Ohio. 

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