I once thought seminary was an impossible dream. After four years of undergrad, I had a Bachelor’s Degree in religion—but I also had thousands of dollars in debt thanks to student loans. Looking for a job out of college was a challenge, and I was only able to take on two part-time jobs. My plan was to work for a couple of years after college doing what I could to save, and then to attend seminary when I had made enough money to pay for it. However, before long my loans were no longer in deferment, and I had a monthly loan payment that was nearly a quarter of my income. I was barely able to save anything, and it soon seemed that I was at an impasse. Seminary seemed necessary for me to find a job as a pastor, but it seemed I would never be able to afford to go.
Maybe you’ve been in the same situation, or you are currently. Maybe your desire is to go to seminary and grow in your knowledge of God’s Word and practical ministry skills, but it just seems impossible. Either the money isn’t there, or the timing is off, and you wonder‘ will I ever make it? Will I ever be able to go to seminary? While going through a trial of this nature is certainly challenging, there are great lessons to be learned. I found that my time between undergrad and seminary was actually a very valuable experience.
The first thing I learned was practical world experience. Going to a Christian college, it was easy to get trapped in the Christian bubble for four years. If I had gone directly to seminary, I never would have had the experience of relating to and working with so many unsaved people on a daily basis. During this time I learned how to be a bold witness and to look for ways to share the gospel with others at every opportunity. I also gained a new perspective on many things. It’s easy to get caught up in Christian quarrels over minor points of theology, and while theology is extremely important, I learned that eschatology and Soteriology aren’t exactly points of concern to the unsaved. My focus was no longer on debating theology, but on getting the gospel right and sharing it in an understandable way.
Possibly the most important thing I learned during the time I spent between undergrad and seminary was to trust in God, and to wait on His timing. This was my only option when things seemed bleak. I knew that while I had my hopes and plans, God was and is sovereign over all of His creation, and that His plan far exceeded my own in both goodness and perfection. When things are going well and according to plan, it is easy for us to rely on our own strength. It is in the difficulties of life, the trials and struggles, where we are brought to our knees before God and learn to trust in His unfailing love.
My story had a good ending: after a year of working and saving whatever I could, someone from my church stepped in and offered to pay for my seminary education. I am extremely blessed, and I never would have expected such a thing to occur. Would I ever have planned it that way? Not a chance. But God had a far better plan than my own. I wouldn’t trade the year I spent in the secular workplace for anything, as I learned many valuable lessons.
If you are struggling to find a way to make it to seminary, or if you’re wondering if you’ll be able to finish, take heart. We serve a great God, and with Him directing our lives, we have no reason to doubt His plan or to become discouraged. He will see us through, and more importantly, by the precious blood of His Son Jesus Christ, our greatest need has been met. We have been redeemed, and we can rejoice in the great God we serve, even in hard times.