A Story of Waiting

Twenty minutes on ice.
Twenty minutes on my feet.
Then back to the couch and the ice pack —  and that was how I made it through the early days of mothering.  Degenerative disc disease and pregnancy make for some painful and complicated logistics when they converge, but, oddly, it’s not the pain I remember most. What I remember most clearly is the frustration of being limited and the discipline of resting that was required for healing.  The real suffering seemed to be in the waiting.

Anyone with a chronic condition of any type is familiar with the rhythms of hope and despair that go with waiting.  Ann Swindell was diagnosed at the age of eleven with trichotillomania, defined by the American Journal of Psychiatry as a “poorly understood disorder characterized by repetitive hair pulling that leads to noticeable hair loss, distress, and social or functional impairment.”  It is inexplicable and incurable, and it remains part of Ann’s life as she writes Still Waiting: Hope for When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want.

Ann lays her own story and struggle alongside the biblical account of the Bleeding Woman in Mark 5.  Remember the story?  After waiting — and bleeding, and consulting experts and spending all her net worth on cures that fell flat — for twelve years, this woman came to Jesus, depleted and out of options.  She was miraculously healed, and this is where her story and Ann’s diverge.  Nonetheless, Ann feels a special kinship with the Bleeding Woman simply because of the shared brokenness of waiting and of clinging to hope.

Waiting Is Part of the Groaning

Paul’s soaring words about hope and redemption in Romans 8 do not bypass the truth that all of creation deals with brokenness in some way — and, therefore, we wait.  And while we wait because of this general and widespread brokenness, it is also true that we are broken because we are waiting.  Underneath all the good that was happening in her growing up years and into young adulthood, Ann struggled with the shame and desperation that centered around a pair of hands that would not stop pulling out eyelashes and eyebrows — in spite of resolutions and wearing gloves and goggles and wrapping tape around her fingers.

There’s a misconception in the 21st century church that we can be “#strong” by ourselves, that all weakness is evil, and that healing is God’s will in every situation.  It’s a pretty insupportable position in light of Paul’s words in II Corinthians 12:9:

 “And [God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

When Waiting Is All You Can Do

From experience, Ann offers principles that allow believers to experience the freedom of waiting well:

  1.  Lay down the false notion that you can fix yourself.  Waiting well requires a surrender of the illusion of control and self-sufficiency.
  2. Do not “create your identity around what you don’t have.”  Even though it is tempting to fixate on lack, whether it is infertility or singleness or a chronic condition, the believer’s true identity is tied up in Christ who names and claims and loves. Until Ann stopped thinking of herself as damaged goods, she could not share her burden and receive the compassion of others.
  3. Relinquish what God has withheld.  I was so happy to find Elisabeth Elliot’s wisdom shared in the pages of Still Waiting:  “. . . the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able honestly to pray what He taught His disciples to pray:  Thy will be done.” (96)
  4. Allow a soft heart to protect you from bitterness.  Making the choice to be offended by God’s sovereign will “puts us in the judgment seat over God.” (105) Ann found that the understanding and kindness of others and the Truth she found in Scripture were key to accepting the will of God in assigning to her this particular trial, this particular chronic condition, this particular set of challenges and temptations to despair.
  5. Scorn shame.  As Jesus took the cross, he silenced shame once and for all.  By confiding in a few safe people and by embracing the strong truth of Romans 8:1, Ann began to live in light of God’s love and acceptance even in the midst of the daily struggle.

Standing with Those Who Wait

Whenever authors share a unique journey of living with and overcoming obstacles, readers come away with insights that make us more sensitive to the pain of others as well as helpful ways of responding.  One of the chief sources of pain in managing a chronic condition is loneliness.  That would have been particularly true of the Bleeding Woman in Scripture, but it is clear from her actions that, somehow, she had managed to keep a shred of hope alive that kept her thinking, “If I can just get close to Jesus . . .”  Encouragement to draw near to God will make it easier for those who are waiting to let Him worry about the outcome.  Our unconditional acceptance and friendship may be the very thing that makes the presence of God palpable to those who wait.

Those of us who live a following life are characterized by waiting.  Although healed spiritually, every believer waits in hope for the gift of full restoration.  We serve an “on time God” — not an “on demand God” and our waiting is best managed through a focused attention on the next step of obedience in the present.  As we come alongside those who are dealing with a painful and open-ended season of waiting, may we find grace to understand that our waiting cultivates longing for all that God has in store for us.  In the meantime,  it’s o.k. to keep on asking God for the healing our hearts long for — as we remind one another that God is trustworthy, even when the answer we receive is, “Wait.”

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This book was provided by Tyndale Momentum, the nonfiction imprint of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Along with reading Still Waiting, I enjoyed getting to know Ann through listening to a couple of podcasts in which she was interviewed by the host.  

On Living a Redeemed Life, Holly Barrett and Ann chatted about her background and writing career.  It was a delightful visit!

In Melanie Dale’s podcast, Lighten Up, the conversation centered around Ann’s struggles with trichotillomania and her advice for writers in developing a unique voice.

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

43 thoughts on “A Story of Waiting”

  1. Wow! I just listened to Holly’s podcast with Ann in the last week so I love that I got read your review of her book. It sounds fascinating and I have this inclination in my life to understand waiting because I have lived through it in different seasons.

    The five points you outlined on waiting from Ann’s book have given me food for thought. My default typically is to fix myself so I will be praying that God shows me how to fully rely on Him. I know this is another book I would love to read.

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    1. Yes, we’ve pretty well trained ourselves that we can “fix” anything — until something comes along that we can’t fix, such as Ann’s condition or maybe the things you and I will have to deal with as we age . . . I really want to learn this lesson of peaceful and productive waiting now so that I will be ready when I need it!

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  2. Michele, this book reminds me of one I recently read and reviewed, called “When God Says Wait.” I’ve endured many waiting periods, and they have grown and shaped my faith powerfully.

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  3. I always love the way you weave your life experience into your book reviews, Michele! So good. This speaks volumes to me right now: “We serve an “on time God” — not an “on demand God” and our waiting is best managed through a focused attention on the next step of obedience in the present. “

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  4. Dear Michele,
    I keep hearing about this book from many sources, and have even downloaded a portion of it from her website. I think I am being “nudged” to look deeper here. 🙂 This does sound like such a wonderful book from one who has walked through seasons of waiting. And I love the Elisabeth Elliot quote also! Thanks for sharing your heart on this book. Blessings to you!

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    1. I actually thought of you as I read this book, Bettie, because of the waiting that goes with a chronic condition. You have to be so disciplined in your willingness to listen to your body’s messages — or pay the price later. And I’m just always plowed over by Elisabeth Elliot’s words wherever I find them!

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  5. Michele, this sounds like a powerful book! And Ann’s truths about waiting? Profound. I read her story on Ann Voskamp’s site a little while back, and it spoke to me then. Her words speak to the truth that it takes humility to wait well.

    I’ll be pondering this post throughout the day. Thanks, Michele!

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  6. Michele,
    “We serve an on time God, not an on demand God.” I can really relate to this season of waiting as I’ve had my foot elevated and will be icing and not doing much of anything for 6 weeks. Waiting to see if the surgery “took” and I’ll be able to walk without pain. What a great reminder to pray “Not my will, but thy will be done, Lord”. Learning to grow and wait on Him….
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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  7. Michele, I had never heard of this condition until my daughter began to manifest signs of it during her late teen years. The Lord helped her overcome and although she can feel a desire to do so, especially when she is stressed, the Lord continues to protect her from succumbing. Her hair has never been the same, but her heart is so much stronger in faith for having overcome through Christ Jesus.

    Speaking for myself, though, I am in a waiting period with my anxiety, which never has fully gone away. Since anxiety is what ultimately drew me to the Lord, I believe the Lord uses my anxiety even still to keep me close and depending on Him.

    Thanks so much for sharing this very important subject matter and the hope that we have in our God who is right there with us in the waiting.

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    1. Karen, thanks for sharing your story. I’m glad to know that God is working in your daughter’s life to protect her. I recently read something from John Newton that surprised me and made me think. He wrote that God has chosen our particular challenges and sin tendencies and he allows them to continue because they are working righteousness in us in the particular way that God knows we need. (Not a very accurate quote but the essence is there.) I was encouraged by that idea.

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  8. Sounds like another great read, Michele. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and know the path of “waiting” and wanting something to change. But the Lord has turned my waiting on something to change to waiting on Him as it sounds like this author is suggesting and living. I sometimes get bogged down by the challenges of my disease, but also think about the beautiful new body I will one day have in heaven. What a day that will be! Thanks for your insights offered here as well. You keep us well informed and well read!

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  9. The tendency to try to “fix myself” is often very strong in me. I recognize, though, that God really wants us to leave our cares, worries, and struggles in his hands. I realize that that’s why we often have them in the first place. My Mom has had health issues for at least 3 years and the struggle has been tough for her. She’s getting better (after numerous visits to naturopaths, etc) but she often gets impatient because she doesn’t have the energy to do the things she’d like. I know that she has found great comfort in relying on Christ her healer.

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  10. This sounds like another great one, Michele. I have an autoimmune disease, so I am quite familiar with health struggles and waiting. I love that she addresses standing with those who wait. There are many times I’ve felt “alone” (either because others don’t understand or because I was unable to get out and attend events). This is something many of us (including myself) need to grow in.

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    1. I’ve been surprised at how many of my friends are struggling with chronic conditions when I was not aware of it! Thanks for sharing your experience, and I hope that books like Ann’s will heighten our sensitivity to the unique issues that go with that territory.

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  11. Modern times give us little patience for the wait, do they? When I’m listening to a podcast online, I’m clicking other windows. When I’m waiting on the tea, I’m sweeping or pacing… Waiting is a discomfort we’ve learned to avoid, isn’t it? Our waiting muscles are pretty weak by the time we get to something that only God can control so we’re trapped in the wait. There’s richness in the wait though, isn’t there? Growth. Relationship with God. Ministry. All in the wait. ((xoxo))

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    1. Yeah, we distract ourselves when the wise course of action is to lean into the wait, or the quiet, or the suffering and to let God be our refuge. I have so far to go in this.

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  12. Oh my. It’s amazing how much we can learn from those who do NOT get their healing here. I’m thankful for believers like Ann who have the courage to stand up and be counted among those who still trust God even when they don’t get prayers answered for relief from pain. Thanks for sharing about Ann, Michele!

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  13. Hi Michele – I was raised up in a culture where weakness, and feelings about our weakness were signs of a lack of faith. Yet you are so right, the bible is full of those crying out to God from deep need and finding His strength – not their own – sufficient. Thank you for pointing us to a wonderful resource and for your encouraging words. Glad to be your neighbor at #tellhisstory.

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  14. Michele, those 5 tips for “When Waiting Is All You Can Do” are so good and very useful. I find that they aren’t always easy though, especially number 3. It is so easy to dwell on what we don’t have rather than what we do have. It is important for us to take the hard step and really give it all to God. This is so good, Michele. Thanks for linking up with #TuneInThursday today. See you next week!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I have too many thoughts on waiting to even put down here…waiting for babies, waiting for babies to get out of the NICU, waiting for Charlie to reach developmental milestones, waiting for better jobs that will bring more money to pay for more therapies for him. Waiting teaches so many things in life, but maybe most importantly that I’m not on my time schedule and THANK THE LORD.

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    1. Jamie, I honor your commitment to lean into the wait. May you find that the refining process does more for your heart than any instantaneous yes, and may this bring great joy and reward to you and your family.

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  16. This sounds so good. Many years ago I had a virus that attacked my spine, and I couldn’t walk on my own for several months. The not knowing of whether and how much I’d recover was hard, and when the doctor said whatever I didn’t recover, I get used to eventually, I thought, “Uh-uh, no way!” But God gave grave throughout and still does every day.

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    1. Thanks, Barbara, for sharing this story. I’m sure I would have had the same “uh-uh” response that you had, and I’m thankful to hear that you have found grace to live within the new boundaries.

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  17. Michele, this phrase has me really thinking….”And while we wait because of this general and widespread brokenness, it is also true that we are broken because we are waiting.” So much refining and purifying takes place in the waiting, yet each time it feels as if it is the first time. In my own life, I’ve been waiting for a mountain to be moved for 30 years, and I must be honest in confessing that hope wains so very often. I find encouragement in this phrase…Encouragement to draw near to God will make it easier for those who are waiting to let Him worry about the outcome. You have ministered to my heart this morning sweet friend!

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    1. That is such good news to me. Thirty years is a long time to wait for anything, but I do know what you mean about hope waning from time to time. Thanks for sharing your heart’s encouragement here, Crystal.

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  18. Michele, I haven’t had a chance to read Ann’s book yet, but your review definitely makes me want to read it! Thank you so much for reviewing it and for adding your own story of suffering in waiting. So many of us can relate!

    Thanks for joining the Grace at Home party at Imparting Grace. I’m featuring you this week!

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  19. I am definitely familiar with waiting in a chronic condition. Not fun. Very hard. But it seems that God does his best and most sanctifying work during the dark times. Thanks for sharing your review at the #LMMLinkup!

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