Ask the pastors and missionaries in your life (and I hope you know several) about their seminary years and the answers might surprise you. Once you get past the humorous stories of last minute papers and language mistranslations, chance are that you’ll begin to hear different stories: miscarriages, pregnancy loss and hospitalized kids; strange personal health struggles, robberies, fires and property loss; often struggles with depression, marital strife and even the fundamentals of the faith. There are a few reasons for this: some of it is just the age and stage of life at which most people attend seminary, some is the unusual physical and emotional stress of the seminary experience, but there is a very real element of spiritual struggle in the mix too.
This week the son of one of our friends asked his mother when Daddy was going to come and visit again. Our next door neighbors are trying to wean their daughter from a gastric tube, while dealing with an infant suffering from the same severe reflux that caused the oldest to have the tube inserted. One family has had two miscarriages in three months and two others are unable to conceive. One of Jonathan’s fellow students has developed a heart arrhythmia, and others are facing depression. This is the nitty gritty of seminary life.
When we ask you to pray for us, we don’t mean that as code for “send money and gifts.” We really mean, “please pray for us,” and for the other people you know who are taking this same journey. First, we recognize that the study of the things of God will always face opposition from the spirit of this world, and secondly, scripture tells us that “. . .If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” (1 Tim. 3:1) A noble task requires preparation and that preparation is not limited to parsing Greek verbs and discussing whether or not the covenant of works was merit based. These men are being prepared to lead the body of Christ which is comprised of clay vessels who are broken, struggling, suffering, hurting and otherwise crippled by the fall. How can they stand up to lead from the pulpit unless they have first lived the struggles of life?
Will you please pray for Jonathan and for his classmates, not that they will be spared the trials, but that they will be able to see Jesus in the midst of the storm and be able to cry out “Jesus, save me.” Please pray that they will have the wisdom and discernment to hear and read and see truth and to continue to preach the gospel to themselves and to each other.
Please pray that the nitty gritty of seminary life will prove to be a fruitful, rather than crushing, experience for my husband and his fellow students.