During my seminary career I encountered some very different and unfamiliar dynamics both in the classroom and outside the classroom. If you are struggling with feeling insecure at seminary for one reason or another, then perhaps you know what I mean.
Insecurities can take many forms and when you are attending an institution comprised of some very different people and personalities, a lot of strange things can happen. Cultures clash, opinions soar, debates occur, struggles to find a study group, group assignments that feel awkward, and being placed in nerve wrecking situations such as preaching or mock-counseling sessions are just a few of the things that you can face.
One of my biggest struggles was feeling like I actually belong in seminary or more specifically, like I was accepted by the other students who are at my seminary. Identity can be a significant insecurity for many Christians and yes, even those who are attending seminary. Moreover, one can feel uncertain about their ministerial capabilities or long term goals after seminary.
Dealing with some of these issues can be very difficult and to be honest I still wrestle with many of them. Perhaps your insecurity has caused you to question whether or not you should still attend seminary. Or perhaps your insecurity causes you to question your desire to be in full time ministry. My advice to you however, is to distinguish between how God is leading you and what you are fearing. Oftentimes our emotions can be mistaken for providence, which can cause us to make poor decisions. Consequently, being able to discern the voice of God versus the desires or fears inside is important. Certainly, God can direct our path through our desires but what I am saying is that if God has led you in a certain direction, then we must be able to discern the difference between God’s call and our own subsequent emotional responses to uncomfortable situations. With that in mind, the real question then becomes, “How do I deal with feeling insecure at seminary?”
Here are some practical words of advice that has helped me deal with insecurity:
1. Know your true identity. Romans 8 discusses how the Holy Spirit testifies to our spirit that we are children of God. I have learned through a lot of internal processing that insecurities often arise because of a lack of certainty over our identity. Moreover, adopting a new understanding of our identity and actually experiencing change is a process not a checkbox. Believing we are children of God is not only a matter of faith and understanding but rather is a matter of the heart. The solution is not just to tell yourself, “I just need to believe this more.” If you believe that you are a child of God then you believe it. The issue is then if you do believe it, then why don’t you feel it? Addressing this issue is a process of examining your life for choices and lifestyles that are consistent with the faith that you claim. Oftentimes people mistaken matters of lifestyle as being a problem with belief. So if you are believe that you are a child of God yet you don’t feel it, then perhaps it’s time to do some introspection.
2. Get connected. Now you may be saying that this is precisely the problem; you don’t feel like you connect with people at seminary. Some of that issue may be simply being uncomfortable with meeting new people. Other times it might be because of differing personalities and interests. Whatever the case may be, spend some time and energy to find people who have your same interests (it does not necessarily have to be only at seminary). Finding a support network and feeling like you have real friends, helps tremendously in dealing with being insecure.
3. Burnout. Insecurity can also occur because of a sudden lack of passion for ministry or feeling confused about direction. Losing passion or feeling lost are actual cases of loss and perhaps a part of what you are feeling is grief, which is being experienced as anxiety. First of all, burnout is a significant issue and source for a sudden lack of passion or direction. If this is the case then it’s time to take a Sabbath. Perhaps you are saying that you are so busy and can’t possible see how you can take time away. However, the more important question is, “Do you believe your burnout is honoring to God?” Furthermore if you feel like you need to endure this season of burnout then my question to you is, “Whose glory are you really seeking?”
4. Grace. Related to all of the above is the realization that you need to give yourself some grace. Know that you are struggling with being insecure and accept it. Sometimes we make our struggles more difficult for ourselves by judging ourselves and making ourselves feel guilty for struggling with certain issues. If God’s grace is wide enough to accept us in our brokenness then why are we unable to accept ourselves? Reflecting on God’s grace will lead us to a greater understanding and appreciation of grace. Look to God for grace not yourself and allow His grace to transform the way that you give grace.
I’m sure there are many other practical tools you can think of to help deal with feeling insecure at seminary but hopefully this article has been of some help.
By Joseph Siacunco. Joseph is a Masters of Divinity Student at Denver Seminary located in Littleton, CO. He currently works at Mission Hills Church in the Finance Department and is a Certified Public Accountant. He has worked in Accounting since 2004 but also serves at his church in other ways including teaching and preaching.