I’m not good at waiting. I rip open the new bag of chips in the Kroger parking lot, love reading spoilers for TV season finales, weave in and out of the fast lane, and almost die waiting for my kids to get to the point of whatever story they’re telling.
I’m definitely not good at waiting for big, important things. I writhed, groaned, swore, cried, doubted, and yelled at God in the hard, long seasons of waiting before I finally recovered from a car accident, finally got pregnant, and finally popped the champagne when my husband got a new job.
I’m still waiting for lots of things. I’m back in physical therapy for a running injury and back in counseling for heartaches. A beloved friend might be on the verge of finally beating her decades-long illness. My kids pray everyday for me to stop being allergic to dogs so they can get one. We can’t find a church that nourishes and challenges us.
Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m supposed to change my prayers or just give up praying. I wonder what I’m doing wrong. I wonder what God is up to. I question who He is.
I’m not good at waiting.
So it took some courage for me to open Ann Swindell’s book, Still Waiting: Hope for When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want. Because I sometimes don’t want to learn how and why to keep waiting. I just want what I want when I want it. And I was afraid this book would condemn me.
I was deeply wounded in past seasons of waiting. My beautiful youth group leader, who didn’t know how I often I begged my new Savior to be healed of my insistent acne, declared “I don’t know anyone walking with Jesus who has bad skin.” My friend’s friend called me for the first time just to diagnose, “Do you have any unconfessed sin in your life? Because that’s probably why you can’t have a baby.” They assumed my waiting was part of God’s punishment, and that He wanted to see me squirm until I relented, repented, and proved I was worthy of His healing.
It messed me up for years – because I believed it. I believed Jesus withheld healing in some menacing power struggle. I sometimes fell into a bleak and grace-less living because of this insidious rewards-and-consequences thinking.
In those seasons I was a like a eager woman in a pretty dress still waiting for her blind date to show while the severs swept restaurant floor. I was like the shivering, cold, hungry woman at the bus stop, looking down the street for a bus that might not come. I hate feeling like that. I want to avoid all the pain, uncertainty, embarrassment, and shame of that kind of waiting.
But I am still waiting for many things. So I took a deep breath, said an “Okay, Lord, I’m listening” prayer, and opened Still Waiting.
The book starts with this profound truth:
“We wait because we are broken,
and we are broken because we are waiting.” (p. 12)
She starts her story from the very beginning, when she was a little girl, when she first knew she was broken, and when she first started waiting. She lets us see how hard waiting has been. I underlined it all in solidarity: feeling defeated (p. 14), feeling like a disappointment (p. 22), a nagging feeling of constantly failing (p. 30), a deep soul weariness (p. 59). I was so thankful this wasn’t going to be some pollyanna book about grinning and bearing it. I was so glad I wasn’t alone.
My heart softened, more ready to hear whatever God wanted to reveal next through Ann’s words.
Then, like an apologetic, rain-soaked, pants-ripped blind date, or a warm and well-lit bus, God showed up with this extravagant, new-to-me truth:
“God does not equate evil with weakness.” (p. 38).
That’s not what my youth group leader said about my skin, or my friend’s friend said about my infertility. They equated my weakness, my inability to fix what was broken in myself, with sin and evil. But God does not.
I stopped reading, leaned back on the couch. I prayed, “O God, is this true? Really true? Maybe my acne and infertility weren’t punishments? I feel like I know it’s true, but sometimes I don’t know how to live like it’s true.”
That’s what shame does. I struggle to trust the deep love of Jesus while I wait for my prayers to be answered because I carry a very heavy backpack of shame (more on this later). Throughout Still Waiting, Ann weaves in a re-telling of the shunned and outcast Bleeding Woman (Matthew 9, Mark 5, and Luke 8) from the gospels. I have felt shunned and outcast, rejected and misunderstood, too. It’s hard to shake that off. Ann explains,
“Because once you see yourself as an outcast or as someone who doesn’t fit in, the stigma doesn’t need to come from anyone else. You carry it in your mind, in the folds of your person.” (p. 82)
Then bitterness and anger can take root. Ann shares her own despair with unanswered prayer, and again it’s like a page out of my own journal:
“The tears ran down my face, wetting the pages of my journal, blurring my vision. I was crying now, but not with God. I was crying at him. I wanted to push him away — this God who is all places and everywhere– and I wanted to run from him.
That was how I started to understand how people became bitter, how the seeds of anger turn into deep roots of dismissal when it comes to trusting God. Petty as my own little world might have been, it was the only world I had. If God wouldn’t show up there, in the middle of my life, how else could I know him?” (p. 103)
Ann then clarifies the choice I’m going to have to make next time I’m in that desperate, confusing place of unanswered prayer:
“And while it’s good to be honest with God, there is a distinct difference between heartfelt honesty and hostile honesty. Heartfelt honesty comes to God on its knees. Hostile honesty comes to God pointing a finger.” (p. 105)
Deep in my season of infertility an older friend told me my prayers sounded like resignation more than relinquishment. I didn’t know the difference. She recommended an old classic from Catherine Marshall called Adventures in Prayer. I found a large-print copy with yellow brown pages at the Wheaton Public Library. In it I discovered this treasure:
“I RELINQUISH THIS TO YOU:
Father, for such a long time I have pleaded before you this, the deep desire of my heart: _____________________________. Yet the more I’ve clamored for this, the more remote You have seemed.
I confess my demanding spirit in this matter. I’ve tried suggesting to You ways my prayer could be answered. To my shame, I’ve even bargained with You. Yet I know that trying to manipulate the Lord of the Universe is utter foolishness. No wonder my spirit is so sore and weary!
I want to trust you, Father. My spirit knows that these verities are forever trustworthy even when I feel nothing…
That you are there. (You said, “Lo, I am with you always.”)
That you love me. (You said “I have loved thee with an everlasting love.”
That You alone know what is best for me. (For in You, Lord, “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”)
Perhaps all along, You have been waiting for me to give up self-effort. At last I want you in my life even more than I want _______________________. So now, by an act of my will I will relinquish this to You. I will accept Your will, whatever that may be. Thank You for counting this act of my will as the decision of the real person even when my emotions protest. I ask You to hold me true to this decision. To You, Lord God, who alone are worthy of worship, I bend the knee with thanksgiving that this too will “work together for good.” Amen.
– p. 70-71, Adventures in Prayer by Catherine Marshall
“Hostile honesty” unleashes my offended, defensive resignation, while “heartfelt honesty” unfurls into open-handed, trusting relinquishment. I had forgotten this profound lesson. I stopped reading and prayed. In my heart I braided Ann’s story, the Bleeding Woman’s story, my story, and Catherine Marshall’s prayer into a thick, strong rope. This rope is going to pull me back into soft-heartedness the next time my hearts gets hard from waiting for what feels like too long.
One of the most powerful chapters in Still Waiting is the chapter about Shame. Shame is a liar (p. 132), pairs itself with struggle (p. 128), prevents us from seeing through the lens of grace (p. 129), makes us ashamed of our need for grace (p. 129), makes us want to hide our brokenness (p. 129). Ann proves she’s wrestled with the shame that comes from waiting:
“Shame makes it feel impossible for us to extricate ourselves from our struggles.
Shame makes it seem that our value is tied to our brokenness.
Shame pairs our worth with our weakness.
Shame yokes us to lies.
Shame tells us that our identity is only as whole as the image we can put forward.” (p. 131)
Like I mentioned earlier, I have a long history with shame. Others put labels on me like “ugly,” “barren,” “too much work,” or “too sensitive.” Jesus bent down, tenderly peeled the labels off and threw them away. But shame/Satan likes to find those labels in the trash, licks them, and stick them right on my forehead again with a snicker. In some seasons, I looked in the mirror, sighed, pressed that label harder onto my skin, slumped my shoulders, and shuffled away lugging the huge backpack where I kept all the dirty labels ever put on me.
I agreed with shame more than I agreed with God.
All that self-condemnation, swallowing shame’s lies whole, especially in those vulnerable seasons of longing and waiting, is no way to live. Lord have mercy, I do still fall into believing and living those lies on dark days. I sometimes forget the precious Bible verse Ann proclaims to bring new hope and redemption:
“Whenever our heart condemns us,
God is greater than our heart,
and he knows everything.” – 1 John 3:20 (p. 135)
Hallelujah. Oh Lord, help me to live in this glorious, shame-erasing truth as I wait.
The rest of Still Waiting features the beautiful climax and denouement of the Bleeding Woman and Ann’s understanding of what suffering, waiting, healing and faith really mean. I read this book in one day, unable to put it down. How would Ann describe what Jesus looked like when he saw the Bleeding Woman? How would she show us what healing felt like, and how that changed her whole life? How would Ann’s story end?
There are profound statements about identity, encountering Jesus, grace, and trust, but I’d like you to read all those pages for yourself. I’m confident God will speak something unique and life-changing to the places in your heart that are weary of waiting. Because, like me, I’m sure you are still waiting for something.
Please keep reading below to find my email interview with Ann, her author page, a video from the publisher, and links to buy Still Waiting.
You are not alone in your waiting. You are seen. You are heard. You are loved.
Hello Ann! I’m thrilled to have you here, and to celebrate your beautiful book. Please tell us about yourself.
I’m a goofball at heart with a deeply pensive streak; or maybe I’m a deeply pensive person with a goofball streak. Either way, I’m highly passionate and contemplative, but I love to laugh and have dance parties with my little family! Speaking of them, I’m a wife of ten years to a wonderful man and a mom to a sweet little girl. They are the joys of my life! Professionally, I write in various publications and also teach online Christian writing courses at WritingwithGrace.com.
What is your new book, Still Waiting: Hope for When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want about?
Ultimately, it’s a book about learning to trust and love God more—even in long seasons of waiting when our prayers aren’t getting answered the way we want them to be answered. In sharing my own particular story, my hope is that the reader will be able to experience the truth that right here, in the middle of the mess and the hurt—this is where Christ is with us, and this is where we can experience his love and goodness.
I love how you imagine the Bleeding Woman’s story. Of all the stories about longing and faith in the Bible, why did her story resonate strongest?
Still Waiting is threaded through with the story of the Bleeding Woman from the Bible, in large part because the longer my own prayer for healing wasn’t answered, the more I became drawn to her story. She had been bleeding for over a decade before Christ healed her; she had seen a lot of doctors, and no one had been able to heal her. In fact, the Scriptures tell us that she had only gotten worse. Christ alone was the only one who could make her well.
While my story isn’t the same as hers, Still Waiting details my journey with a physical condition that also didn’t have a “cure” in the traditional sense. Both of us had conditions that doctors didn’t fully understand and couldn’t fix.
And there, in that overlap between our experiences, I found emotional and spiritual connections with this woman in Scripture. Although she was at the end of her proverbial rope, with no earthly hope of healing and no way to change her circumstances, she clung to hope. When Jesus walked by, there was still a spark of faith and tenderness left inside of her; she had not shut her heart down or walked away from God. Instead, she was willing to reach out and try again—and that is why I love her story. I want to be like her in this way: I want to keep my heart tender toward Christ and full of faith even when my circumstances aren’t changing.
You talk about shame in Chapter 6 of Still Waiting. I resonated strongly with your words. Why does shame taunt us while we wait? Is there any way to avoid it?
We’ve all experienced shame, and it’s hard to fight against those emotions. But I also know that as a child of God, I do not have to live with shame; Christ defeated shame once and for all at the cross. I have learned to walk in this freedom and silence shame as I read the Word and discover my true identity there, as I pray and encounter the presence of Christ, and as I share my story with others. Surprisingly, the thing I was once the most afraid of—others finding out about my brokenness—has become a place of great grace and freedom in my life. As I’ve opened up and offered my story to others, I have found that instead of feeling more shame, I have been able to experience the grace of the Gospel afresh, because everyone else is waiting for something, too. Whether they’re waiting for healing, or for wholeness, or for relational reconciliation, all of us have weak places in our lives that still need God’s touch. When we share our stories, we help one another put our hope not in our circumstances but in the God who is making us more like himself and has purchased our freedom through his blood on the cross.
What is your dream for your book, Still Waiting?
My hope and prayer for Still Waiting is that it will point readers to the goodness and trustworthiness of Christ as they are in the middle of their own waiting seasons. I want them to read this book and know that they’re not alone, that they’re not forgotten, and that God is with them in their journey. That’s my biggest dream!
Thank you, Ann!
I strongly recommend Still Waiting, friends. This is a beautifully written book about the tender struggle to trust God when He doesn’t give us what we want. I saw myself in Ann’s story, and the Biblical story of The Bleeding Woman. I remembered my long, painful seasons of waiting, and how it pushed me to the very edge of my faith, where I sometimes lost my way.
In Still Waiting Ann gives us permission to admit we’re broken, weak, ashamed, and suffering. We all feel that way, especially when we risk believing that God really loves and sees us even when He won’t heal us. That’s a deal-breaker for many of us.
But Ann reminds us that grace, hope, sweetness, identity, and redemption are lavishly provided for us while we wait. Not in a greeting card, fake, forced way. Not because we will it to be okay. But because God is there with us while we wait.
I’m still waiting for many things. I trust you, Jesus.
Here are links to buy Still Waiting: Hope for When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want and connect with Ann all over social media:
- Buy book: Amazon link
- Buy audio book: Audible link
- Publisher: https://www.tyndale.com/p/still-waiting/9781496410764
- Website: www.annswindell.com/book (links to buy Still Waiting on Amazon, B&N, BAM, Target, Lifeway, & CBN are there, too)
- Insta: www.instagram.com/annswindell
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/annswindell
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/annswindell
- Still Waiting Video:
* I recieved a complimentary copy of Still Waiting from Tyndale Momentum.
©Aimee Fritz & Family Compassion Focus, 2017.