Seminary. It’s a word that can simultaneously spark excitement or fear, depending on whom you talk to.

When my husband approached me with the idea of his pursuing his PhD, I initially responded with 100 percent fear and 0 percent excitement. The fear came naturally—along with a host of questions: When will you find time to study? How will we pay for this? Will our marriage and kids survive?

Little did I know that when my husband enrolled in seminary, God signed me up for a few classes as well, including Love and Endurance 101. The Lord has used this season of schooling to increase my husband’s education. But more importantly, he has used it to grow our faith and trust in him.

Here are four lessons God has taught me through my journey as a seminary wife.

1. Give Thanks for Right Now

There’s a reason God commands us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18). I can’t give thanks if I wish I were in someone else’s shoes (namely, someone not married to a seminary student). And I can’t give thanks if I wish I were four years down the road attending graduation. I can only give thanks for today—right now, in fact.

When we give thanks for now, God teaches us to be grateful for where we are rather than complaining about where we want to be. As we daily obey in giving thanks, he grants another blessing: a heart of contentment.

2. Love Creatively

One of the price tags of continued education is a tired mind and busy schedule. This takes a toll on every relationship, but especially on a marriage. Where there used to be time, energy, and money to spend on regular dates, now you’re alone in the evenings while your husband spends quality time with his books.

You may not have time or money to show love in the ways you did before seminary, but there are still a thousand little ways you can actively love your husband through this season. Ask God to give you wisdom to know what would be most loving toward him.

Start by making time to talk each day. Ask what he’s studying, then pay attention to his answer. Pray for him, and tell him how you’re praying. Plan special “home dates” after your kids are in bed. Give him a part of the pantry and fill it with special snacks for his late-night studying. Make it your goal to be his best cheerleader through this season of school.

Seminary is an opportunity to practice a love that “does not insist on its own way” (1 Cor. 13:5). Pray for a heart that seeks to creatively love your husband during his schooling.

3. Remember Others Are Listening

If someone could bottle up all the words you’ve said about your husband’s continued education, what would be their biggest takeaways? Would they be encouraged by your faith in God during this season? Would they join you as you give praise for this opportunity to pursue a higher level of training?

Or would they commiserate and think resentfully about the hard things God has brought in their lives?

When you speak with resentment about the challenges of seminary, ask God to scrub your soul clean and give you a heart that sees the opportunities and blessings more than the difficulties.

If you have children, be especially careful, because they see and hear your reactions all the time. If you resent Daddy’s study time, they will too. But if your heart is overwhelmed by the goodness of God, you can count on it: your words will be full of praise too.

4. Hang on to Jesus

Being a seminary wife comes with unique challenges. It’s a great opportunity to learn how to deal with difficulties. There’s no need to sugarcoat what’s hard and pretend things aren’t challenging. That’s not spiritual living; it’s just denying reality.

Instead, take your trials to Jesus, and ask him for grace to respond with real joy. Daily invest time in his Word. Pour out your heart and struggles in prayer. Ask him for grace and strength. Remember that his grace is sufficient, and see his strength shine through, in spite of your weakness.

This time of seminary may feel like a holding pattern, but you are becoming now who you’ll be when this degree is finished. If I spend my years as a seminary wife complaining about my husband’s schedule and bitterly wishing our financial situation were different, I’ll spend my years after seminary practicing the same destructive habits.

But if I take these years as a gift from God, then I’ll discover that my husband’s schooling is just another tool to make me more like Christ. By God’s grace, I hope to exit my years as a seminary wife not merely with excitement that it’s over, but with deep joy at the way God has changed my heart to be more like his own.

Editors’ note: 

Many hopeful men emerge from seminary eager to dive headfirst into ministry. Confident that seminary equipped them with the tools they need for the journey ahead, they grow discouraged when the realities of their first call don’t line up with what they came to expect from assigned readings and classroom discussions. The new TGC book 15 Things Seminary Didn’t Teach Me, edited by Collin Hansen and Jeff Robinson, aims to bridge the gap between seminary training and pastoral ministry. Contributions from 15 veteran pastors, including Daniel L. Akin, Juan Sanchez, Phil A. Newton, and Scott Sauls, encourage pastors to stand firm in the thick of the realities and rigors of pastoral ministry.