A Rough Seminary Semester, Part II

In part I, I shared about some of the issues my family and I faced during the 2011 spring semester which ran from January – May. God taught me a lot during that time. Some of what He taught me I’m still digesting while other lessons He taught me I’m not sure exactly how to put into words. In this post I will share some of what I am able to express that I believe God taught me through this time as well as some of the activities He lead me through.

Running over the potholes of life describe in part I is not a ride I would pay for, or much less stand in line for. I realize others have had far worse happen in their lives, but I am where God has me and life is His classroom. Each person’s bumps and burdens looks and feels different to the next person’s. As I felt my own burdens during this time I waited for spiritual ground zero so that it would just be over.

But there was no ground zero. There was a Savior instead. That Savior, Jesus Christ, paid for my ride through the potholes of life, not by standing in line, but by hanging on a cross enduring far more than I ever could. He rose from the grave on the third day defeating death so that all of us who believe in Him will also be raise to new life. I was reminded during this time that through His death and resurrection Jesus said that through Him we “may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 ESV)

I knew that Jesus had overcome the world for me and that I am to take every thought captive unto obedience to Him (2 Cor. 10:5-6) and do all things to His glory (2 Cor. 10:31). Of course, my problem was that I was trusting God less and less instead of more and more. I told an older, wiser brother at church that I was just ready to give up. He replied something like – Good, that’s just where God wants you so you can trust Him and stop trying to do it all yourself.

And then what?

Prayer. As cliche as it sounds the Christian must pray. Even when we don’t feel like it we need to pray. The one thing that we need most in times of crises is time alone with God in prayer. Ironically, it is during the hard times when prayer can be most difficult. There are many things in life at one point or another that we don’t feel like doing whether it’s work, school work, chores, etc., but we do them anyway. I found myself in this situation, but I needed to get closer to God and it wasn’t God that drew back it was me. Prayer was hard and wonderful at the same time and it must be a priority in the Christian life.

Bible reading. Right along with prayer was reading God’s word. Scripture gave great comfort during this time. Scripture shows how God’s people have struggled throughout history and how God was always there for them. Scripture is a good reminder that trouble and pain in life is not a recent phenomenon. It was good to be reminded of God’s faithfulness and goodness.

Journaling. I had to journal through Philippians for one of my classes. Had this not been assigned I may not have done it, but going forward this was a great spiritual exercise. I prayerfully wrote about 16 or so pages through Philippians noting the attitude of Paul and many of the little things that aren’t often taught in Bible lessons. My shortcomings were magnified much more which revealed my need for Jesus even more. It was wonderful.

Family. The most difficult part was probably ministering to my wife during this time. As her spiritual head, I was struggling myself, but I was also heartbroken seeing her own spiritual condition. Attending to my wife also brought me to seek Jesus even more. If I will someday be a pastor in some capacity and I can’t even shepherd my wife while in seminary then I need to re-evaluate. God gave us this tough time together to make our relationship stronger than ever. I will now take my wife along with me during my seminary studies. We got back to having a regular devotion and prayer time and sometimes my seminary material will be part of this. I’ve heard too many stories of wives’ not having their husbands while they are in seminary. God has also used my story for me to share with other men the importance of tending to their wives spiritual needs and being together as a couple.

Pastor. I talked to my pastor about getting through this time juggling life because he’s been there. He helped in put things in perspective though there was no easy road. Briefly, in so many words we talked about the winding road of a pastors life, serving the local church, and persevering to God’s glory. He reminded me that life in ministry is not easy, but it is rewarding. Of course, my pastor was there for me after the miscarriage and made it known that he was there if I needed him.

Mentor. I’m thankful to have an older, godly mentor who is a good Christian man. He has been in ministry a long time and has been a pastor and happens to also be a Christian counselor. He has become a great friend. We talked about anything and everything that the spiritual-emotional quiver could carry. At almost 70, he has a lot of life experience to share which he clearly expresses through a biblical lens.

Friends. Trustworthy Christian friends are great. I have a few who I’ve known longer than I’ve known my wife. Although my wife is my best friend these male Christian friends are there to help when need be and I am there for them. They were prayerful and encouraging during these tough times.

Church. I am grateful to have a church full of caring people. Of course, I couldn’t exactly share every intimate detail with the whole church that I shared with my pastor, mentor and close friends. But I shared enough and they cared even more for us. I was reminded of how we are one in the body of Christ and that “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:26 ESV)

Professors. I keep my professors up to speed on what was going on. It is not always easy to tell them because of the fear of getting the answer you don’t want to hear. But they were wonderful. They understood the pain we went through with having a miscarriage and that life does not pause to let us catch up. They worked with me and I actually came out with very good grades for which I also praised God.

So that’s my story, but it could be yours too and it doesn’t have to involve seminary. When tragedy and grief strike in life there is no pause, rather it feels like fast-forward in slow motion. Anxiety and impatience can rule the day while the cross seems like a distant shadow. I would encourage anyone going through a rough time to seek Jesus because that cross is a reality not a shadow. Whether in seminary or not maybe God would use some of what I shared above to point you in the right direction which is ultimately to Him. So please consider prayer, Scripture, your pastor, a mentor, your church, a friend, etc. if you are struggling. The Holy Spirit certainly used life’s events and those in the church for my spiritual growth.

The bottom line is that I learned to love and trust Jesus more clinging to His gospel.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:26-28 ESV)

tagged as in Gospel,morality,Southern Baptist,theology

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jim Duggan August 23, 2011 at 11:30 am


Thanks for your openness and sharing. You blessed me with your testimony of faith.

2 Mark August 23, 2011 at 11:50 am


Thanks so much for the encouragement. Praise God.

3 Chuck August 23, 2011 at 12:51 pm


I too, want to thank you for your openness. It is a powerful testimony to witness to God’s work in your life through these challenges. Your willingness to be open to his comfort and leadership is a blessing and I am sure will be of great reward as you go forward.

My “dark night of the soul” did not come during seminary, but a few years into ministry. The loss of my mother-in-law and my wife’s grandmother in one month and then walking with my dearest friend through her battle with brain tumor until God called her home was overwhelming. I struggled with profound disappointment and depression.

I would wish these experiences on no one, but God taught me to depend more deeply upon him, equipped me for better works of ministry and gave me a testimony of God’s amazing love in the face of great adversity. Many of the lessons you mentioned were mine as well.

I will hold you and your wife in prayer. Thank you again for being authentic and open. It is precious gift.


4 Mark August 24, 2011 at 9:29 am


Thanks so much for your encouraging comment and for sharing about your own past struggles. Much like you I can attest that God has used my own situations to equip and shape me. I hope He continues to shape me, but not necessarily in the same manner. 🙂

Grace to you.


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