Bethlehem College & Seminary students are about two weeks removed from the hustle and bustle of the academic year. Many have completed their time at Bethlehem and are now entering or seeking various jobs in ministry or the marketplace. Others are pursuing further education. Many others remain, welcoming the reprieve until the fall, enjoying the change of pace, and reveling in the beautiful spring weather.
Although the conclusion of one chapter of life, such as finishing a difficult semester or graduating, is certainly an occasion for celebration, some of us have suffered significantly this year. Indeed, all of us “have been grieved by various trials (1 Pet 1:6),” whether comparatively large or small. The anticipation and excitement surrounding the new seasons of life that lay before us may be enough to take our minds off of our afflictions just long enough to almost believe that they are now behind us…almost.
However, some will perceive no change in their circumstances, and for those who do enjoy some temporary relief, it is not a matter of if their trials will resurface but only when. Try as we may to avoid it or to rid ourselves of it, suffering is inescapable in this world stained by sin, yet these things we at Bethlehem know and treasure: God is sovereign, God is good, and even in the midst of suffering “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom 8:37). For those who hope in Jesus Christ, this perplexing state of reality need not drive us to despair for “the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8)!
Dave Radford of The Gray Havens captures this beautifully in their new song, “Shadows of the Dawn.”
A world away and still not far, Like fabric woven into ours, The dawn, it shot out through the night, And day is coming soon.
The kingdom of the Morning Star Can pierce a cold and stony heart. Its grace went through me like a sword And came out like a song.
Now I’m just waiting for the day In the shadows of the dawn.
Although the presence of suffering is a constant reminder that we still dwell in the shadows of the dawn, we can rest assured that the full light of day is coming because the Son has risen. In the light of the gospel, the sword of suffering in the steady hands of Christ our Savior is a gracious means of stirring our hope, arousing our affections, and awakening our hearts to sing his praises.
Therefore, if God is our exceeding joy, we can rejoice always! We can rejoice with great joy over graduation and seasons of rest, over new homes and new opportunities, and even over trials of various kinds. We can rejoice in the shadows of the dawn because “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).
Bethlehem College & Seminary’s education in serious joy offers us an invaluable opportunity to spend time weaving this biblical hope into the fabric of our souls. Every class, every assignment, every year affords deeper knowledge of the true and faithful Light, who shines brightest in the dark places when all other lights have gone out. May we thus hope in Christ and build our lives upon his word so that, even when the day seems worlds away, we will know it is still not far. May we have indomitable joy through Christ, whether in the darkness or in the shadows of the dawn, for the day is coming soon.
Matt Denzer 2nd year seminary student
2017 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors + Church Leaders Hosted by Bethlehem College & Seminary
1. Provision, wisdom, etc. for graduates transitioning out of school and into jobs or job searching.
2. Rest, as well as wisdom in the use of time over the summer break for returning students.
3. A sustained and increasing desire to grow in the knowledge and love of Christ.