Learning to Love the Process

If I could summarize my time at SEBTS, I would say it was both a deeply challenging season and some of the most formative years of my walk with Christ so far.  Coming to SEBTS was never in the plan for me nor did I accept it quickly when the Lord placed it on my heart to come.  Working as a full-time nurse was both enthralling and comfortable at the same time-not because it was an easy job nor was it the wrong career choice. It was my plan and what I knew. For as long as I could, I ran from that plan because it didn’t make sense in my finite mind.  But God, somehow in his mystery and sovereignty, had a plan for SEBTS to be the design for me to become more like His Son Jesus.  Coming to SEBTS revealed a lot of my rebellious heart and at the same time revealed a deep tenderness of the Lord that I had not known previously. 

“Come over for dinner around 6pm,” Tara Dew said.  SEBTS is full of highly intelligent professors and some of the most incredible people I have ever had the privilege of studying under, but the main reason Wake Forest became like home to me was because of the people I found here in this place.  God’s heart and lovingkindness often-times can be learned through studying in a classroom and for that I am so grateful.  The education I received here taught me the counseling concepts of how to weep with those who weep but more than anything the people who were teaching me were exemplifying these same character traits and concepts we were learning in those very books.

Learning to love the process has been a theme of the last 3 years of my life.

In July of 2017, I was coming out of a pretty dark season in my life. Life seemed out of control. It was hard and days seemed long. I would now describe it as a cloud of darkness that seemed to follow me everywhere and as fast or as far as I tried to run, it still towered over me. I prayed to the Lord that he would allow those hard months of trial and uncertainty to one day be used for his glory. Hindsight is 20-20 but I would almost say now, that it is necessary to walk through these kinds of days and months, sometimes years, that we more deeply know the God we read of and learn about in the bible and in textbooks.

These words I wrote in those days are a more accurate description of the really difficult places we may find ourselves intersected with God’s sweet loving-kindness.

“God, sometimes the obstacles in my life seem like chasms and I don’t even know how to move forward; I need you to help me break down walls in my own my own heart to see how you want me to live a Holy life, despite how I feel.” (March 29, 2017)

“Even when my ‘feel box’ doesn’t feel like feeling, point me to your feelings.  Even when I am up and down, lead me to the truth that is steady. Even when I don’t see a reason to be sad/lonely/etc., teach me comfort in you.  And Lord, if I can ask one more thing-help me to know my lifeline is you…”

I have learned that emotions and feelings aren’t always right-they are a thermometer for what’s really going on inside my heart. We can feel those different emotions and still trust the God who gave them to us. And I am continuing to learn the desire for something more than being in control of my life. Control is a delusion and it’s not possible as a mere human. I have experienced un-comfortableness, being in the middle of the will of God and, there is no joy comparable.  It may sound simple- but contentment comes through trust in Christ.

Isn’t that what we long for at the core of who we are? To be content and satisfied in this life. The longings we had as a young person to grow up, go to college, get a degree, get married, have kids and so on.  I believe, as a follower of Christ, there is a desire much deeper than the American dream- much more than being in control. Much more than always knowing the next step of life.  When I’m so focused on being in control, I can’t possibly enjoy the process because my mind is only focused on the end result., not what God is doing in me. 

I’ve found in the abandonment of my own plans, there is Jesus.  His faithful, loving arms wrapped tightly around me, saying, “Daughter, why did you fear and why are you trying to do this thing called life on your own?  I will never leave you.”

Faith in action is living moment by moment in the arms of the Lord that he has given me this day to live in and trust him no matter the circumstances of my day. 

God did lead me to a place away from my home. He did make me uncomfortable. He did make me a grown up in more ways than one. He did move me away from my friends and everything I had ever known. He asked for much sacrifice.  But friends, the reward was and is so much greater than the sacrifice.

He sustained me through dark nights when I couldn’t understand how he could possibly work everything out for my good and his glory.  His faithfulness met me in moments of panic and sheer disbelief.  Jesus gave me himself, and he was enough.  I finally got a glimpse of just a small piece of what Paul says in Philippians 4:19- He supplied every need. He gave me all that I needed exactly when I needed it.

He tore the veil and continues to make a way for me to trust him and daily walk in a manner worthy of His Gospel…only by his grace and mercy.

Ministry is hard work, but if I have learned one thing it is this—It’s God’s work. We are surrendered and submitted to a sovereign God who is working in ways we will never understand, and our part of the story is to be faithful to His work, faithful to His church, and faithful to surrender EVERY SINLGE MOMENT to Him before we ever try to change/love/counsel or minister to His people.Learning God’s word transformed my heart to be more like Christ while I got to see the very word lived out in the lives of the teachers who were teaching me.The Southeastern community has become part of me and I am honored to be alumni.

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Hannah Adkins

Hannah graduated with an MA in biblical counseling from Southeastern Seminary in December 2018. She works as an RN and a part-time session leader at Hope Reins Equine Ranch. She blogs at For the Glory of the King and in her free time, you can find her exploring new food places, playing with her dog Selah, reading a good book or spending time with the people she loves.

When It's Not What You Thought

I walked across the platform to receive my diploma in Binkley Chapel in the spring of 2014. By the fall of 2017, I found myself on staff at my second church since graduation.

What happened?

We ask ourselves questions like this over the course of our lives, often when things do not go as planned. Check your social media, or if you dare, call around among your old friends from college or seminary. Scattered in the background of the success stories, the booming church plants, the fantastic food in the far-off country, and the Instagram-worthy devotions and hand-lettered quotes, you will find a plethora of upset expectations. The guy in your church history class, the one jazzed about going to an unreached people, his missionary journey misfired when a doctor diagnosed him with melanoma. The Hebrew savant who never missed a niphal received only a few returned communications from all the résumés he sent out—all of them cutting contact after speaking with him one time. The gifted preacher you knew had to go back to secular work because his church could not afford to compensate him as a husband and father of three.

As we rehearsed ancient verb paradigms, wrestled over contextualization issues, and read cinder block-sized books into the night, we never foresaw these challenges. We did not hear these stories at the conferences or even in chapel. We did not sin ourselves out of service, discharging ourselves through disqualification, no. Things just did not go the way we expected.

After graduation, I joined a family member in Louisville, KY working to revitalize a dying church. I knew I would serve bi-vocationally, and the work would bear much in the way of difficulty. We had more than a few irons in the fire at our church. The church property stood in a populated, urban area, a fertile ground for local evangelism. A church of immigrants partnered with us, and we pursued a merger between our two congregations to establish an intercultural church. We began going through our church rolls, visiting dozens of addresses belonging to inactive members, seeking to reintroduce them to the church, perhaps seeing nominal Christians convert to disciples of Jesus. We initiated a homeless ministry, serving hot breakfast and coffee on Saturday mornings while sharing the gospel.

Yet, we baptized no new believers. We saw no returned wayward members. The intercultural church we hoped to pursue became a thing of conflict and a mind-blowing time-drain. I picked up a third job teaching at a small Christian school. I never expected to become the titular character in a superhero story, but I certainly did not see myself as Vain-Hoping Citizen #2, either. Our attending congregation of twenty elderly people dwindled to twelve within a year.

We hosted a summertime Vacation Bible School. We had decent attendance, and a small church plant helped us execute the VBS. None of our attending families would join us on Sunday mornings, and when we invited the church plant to join us for a service one morning, less than five of our normally attending members joined us for worship. We looked and felt just a little silly in front of these people who helped us so much.

Eventually, God led our church into information and through circumstances which revealed the wisest thing to maintain a continuing gospel witness in our part of the city: becoming adopted by another church. A sister church had people, but they were running out of space in their building. We had plenty of building space, and not much in the way of members to gather and worship in it. The other church adopted ours, receiving our staff into theirs and our membership into their own. By a year into the adoption, God moved my family member into a new pulpit in Indiana, and I took a position teaching and discipling teens in South Carolina.

I never pictured my first pastoral position lasting scarcely three years. They felt like ten. We suffered a miscarriage, and God blessed us with our third child. I walked through my first church discipline situation and underwent back surgery.

What happened?

God chose my family to bear faithful witness to the risen Lord Jesus to homeless people and children from beyond broken families. God sent my family to encourage others in a difficult work in a hard place. The Holy Spirit used two young families to shepherd a small, wounded, and dying congregation into the care of other shepherds who will see them to the grave.

Isaiah 55:11 reads:

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;

It will not return to Me empty,

Without accomplishing what I desire,

And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

I am nothing more than a man guided by the Spirit of God. My job was and remains serving as an announcer of the gospel call: come, you thirsty, and drink of the living water! Cease binging on what leaves you empty! (Isaiah 55:1–2 and John 7:38). God appointed my family and I as midnight riders, blowing the trumpet of Christ’s grace. The news fell on the ears God intended. It will accomplish the purpose he put forth. Perhaps we planted seeds only, and another will water them. Perhaps our mouths operated as watering cans, nurturing the seed along until it bears fruit one day. The possibility remains of our words serving as unheeded warnings to which some will bear account before King Jesus on the Final Day.

The years directly following my time in seminary did not go according to my plan, whatever it was. Instead, they conformed to the better plan, the plan of the King. Wherever God put you, remain ready with the gospel you learned, the news you heeded, the call you obeyed. Our disappointments and slips do upend the call of faithfulness where God roots and uproots us. Perhaps you expected different. Remember, if we truly appreciated the depth of our sin, we would expect different from our own eternity. Staying, going, disappointed, or delighted, speak His name and his work that He find you faithful in His sight.

Praise Your Way Through the Pain

Recently I had coffee with a gentleman interested in joining our worship team. I wanted to hear his story and hear what God had been doing in his life. As he began to share, I was stunned by the amount of pain he had endured in recent years. After twenty-five years of marriage, he lost his wife to a sudden and unexpected illness. For three months, he struggled to pull himself out of a deep valley of despair brought on by the tragic death of his life partner and best friend. For three months, he put down his instrument, having no desire to play.

One day, in desperation he grabbed his guitar, mustered up what little bit of energy and faith he had, turned on some worship music and began to play along. After a little while, the Holy Spirit began ministering to his heart while he worshiped and played before the Lord. The tears began to flow and the healing began to take place.

The discipline of praising in the valley is not popular teaching. Few of us want to face the reality that storms will come. But even fewer of us want to acknowledge that God wants us not simply to endure trial, but actually to worship through the midst of it.

David penned Psalm 57 in order to serve as a corporate worship song that would remind God's people to trust His sovereignty in the midst of trial and hardship. Set to the tune of "do not destroy," (an unknown melody) the psalm recounts David's personal suffering while fleeing for his life. “In the shadow of your wings,” David writes, “I will take refuge till the storms of destruction pass by” (v.1).

But what if they don’t? Or what if relief is so far out of our line of sight we can’t seem to comprehend it? That’s when we, in faith, ask God that our desire to see Him glorified would be greater than our desire for relief. “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens. Let your glory be over all the earth” (v.5).

Tim Keller writes, “Deeper than disaster, danger, and distress is the desire for God to be glorified. If that can be accomplished by saving us from our circumstances, then praise God! If it is better accomplished by our circumstances remaining unchanged while we continue to show our confidence in God before the watching world, praise God as well. Either way, God fulfills his purpose for you as you delight to honor Him.”

I don’t know your circumstance. I don’t know the pain you feel. But I know there is a long line of Christian heroes who have gone before you who not only endured enormous pain, but also praised their way through the pain and finished their race seeing God glorified in their suffering––men and women of whom the writer of Hebrews says, “the world was not worthy.”

Whatever you are enduring at this moment or will endure in future moments, refuse to let the enemy steal your confidence in Christ and his sovereignty. In your most difficult of moments, trust the facts rather than your feelings, and praise your way into a deeper level of confidence in Jesus.

Alumni Blog v2.0

Welcome to the Southeastern alumni blog v2.0!

These are exciting days for Southeastern! We want you to be in the loop with all things happening on campus and among the alumni family. Be sure to bookmark AlumniSE.com and check back each week for new posts. We desire for this to be a space that encourages and equips you as you GO!

We’re also thrilled to launch the newly improved and upgraded Southeastern Network. If you are currently not a registered user, join today for free to network with your fellow alumni, search for and post jobs, and learn about mentoring opportunities.

It is a joy to serve you! Please connect with our office anytime and let us know how we can continue helping you to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission.

Like free things? Shoot us an email with your mailing address to alumni@sebts.edu and we will send you a newly designed alumni decal! Keep checking the blog, the network, and our twitter (@sebtsalumni) for more giveaways over the next few weeks.

Look around and enjoy!

Michelle Ard
Events & Alumni Relations Coordinator
M.A., Intercultural Studies, c/o 2017