Being an extremely decisive person, it is uncommon for me to go very long without forming an opinion about something–particularly a book. It bothers me loads when this happens. I realized today that, sometimes, worldviews are slightly varied such that I can’t fully reject what an author is saying, but I also can’t agree with everything the book says. That’s where I’ve landed with Still Waiting by Ann Swindell.
I googled Ann to learn a little more about her; she seems like a fabulous gal! I believe that she loves the Lord and His Word. I believe she wants to apply it to her life in the most honest way possible. She has struggled for decades with trichotillomania, which is “a mental disorder that involves recurrent, irresistible urges to pull out hair from your scalp, eyebrows or other areas of your body, despite trying to stop.” (Mayo Clinic). I can completely understand why she would seek deliverance from this issue, though the reasons are likely different from why I would seek to be rid, once and for all, of Lyme disease. Both circumstances offer their own set of life challenges.
But, out of the gate, I think we are coming from two different angles.
While I suspect the author would agree that God is the great (and only) Heart-Changer, the majority of the book focuses on her desire for two things: relief from the desire to pull (behavioral change) and physical healing. She mentions very early in the book that anxiety was the onset cause of her trichotillomania. Anxiety . . . a heart issue, not a physical issue. (One could argue that a predisposition to anxiety is genetic, which could be true; but I would counter by wondering, if one predisposed to anxiety were removed from the environment containing the pre-exisiting anxiety, would he still struggle with anxiety? Is it nature or nurture that brings anxiety bubbling to the surface?)
I waited and waited for the chapter that told about the author’s experience in repenting of this anxiety (with which she continues to struggle) and finding freedom to live within the freedom that comes from that (even if she still pulled). But it never came.
Please don’t read that I am judging her heart; that’s not my place. I don’t know her and can’t know what she is thinking and feeling, aside from what I just read. She probably has asked the Lord to relieve her anxiety. But since that one chapter (an important one, in my mind) is missing from this book, I can’t fathom giving it to someone who struggles with anxiety and has claimed it as her identity (e.g., “I just have an anxious personality.”). I wouldn’t feel right having someone come away from a book without being encouraged to address the root of the issue. In my experience, when I am anxious it is because I have stopped trusting the Lord for some reason or another. There is no permanent, medical solution for anxiety; but there is a God who is able and trustworthy, and Who commands us not to be anxious.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[g] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6)
Again, I think we’re just coming at this topic from different perspectives. With that issue out of the way, I can say that I did find valuable truths in these pages. It certainly encouraged my heart many times, with regard to waiting. (We’re doing a bunch of waiting these days!) I just can’t get super excited about this book.
So . . . I’m not willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but I recommend reading it less as a self-help book (that’s not what it is), but with an eye for the truths about God that will encourage the soul.
Soli Deo gloria,
For a number of reasons, I’m excited to share this book with you! I always like a book that tackles well the topic of suffering, and this one fits the bill. The actual meat of Finding God in the Hard Times consists of less than 70 pages (five chapters). But not to worry—Matt and Beth Redman, writers of the popular contemporary worship song “Blessed Be Your Name,” make efficient use of the space.
The book is organized into four main sections, once you get past the forewords and introduction: five chapters of material, complete with reflection questions; a small group discussion guide; an appendix that lists Scriptures quoted throughout the book; and a final appendix of recommended books on suffering.
I found the chapters to be full of gospel truth that point the reader to Christ at every turn. The Redmans are straightforward; sometimes, what they have to say is a hard, but necessary, truth. The brevity of the book doesn’t allow time to touch on the theology of why suffering occurs, but that’s okay. That’s really not the purpose, in my opinion. This would be a great book to read before you’re in the throes of suffering. (I recommend a different book for when one is in the valley.) It’s a quick read (though packed with truth)—one that is very accessible. I read it in about an hour, but I can see the value in reading it with a discipleship partner or with a small group. The discussion questions in the back of the book serve to bring the reader deeper into an investigation of the concepts covered in the chapters. I think they would do just that; they definitely sparked more contemplation as I pondered them.
All in all, I would recommend this book to just about anyone who might encounter suffering (which is everyone). Priced for Kindle and paperback at under $7 (at the time of this post), you have nothing to lose!
Soli Deo Gloria,
*In exchange for my honest opinion, I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers.
Last weekend I reached the end of my rope. I found myself sitting on the edge of the bed, weeping tears that were too heavy to spend any time sitting on my cheeks. They had to keep moving to make room for the next set. And boy, like little soldiers, they were marching quickly.
My heart was (is) overwhelmed by the suffering around me. Cancer. Long-term illnesses that breed continued and compounding complications (including my own). Life-transforming injuries. Death. More cancer. Friend, it’s just too much for my feeble mind and heart to understand.
It took a lot of Scripture reading and praying to understand why my heart felt so desperate. I discovered that the enemy had leaned close to my ear, and he was hissing lies — terrible, gut-wrenching lies.
Lie #1: God is not in control.
Lie #2: God is not good.
Lie #3: God is not near.
The sum of these three is the biggest fallacy of all: I can’t trust God.
This topic of trusting God in suffering is entirely too gargantuan to tackle in one blog post. But I want to nestle into the Word and examine what it says about trusting our Heavenly Father, even while walking through the darkest of valleys. Posts that combat each of the lies above are forthcoming.
Recently I began to read A Place of Healing, by Joni Eareckson Tada. In all honesty, the subtitle is the reason I bought the book: “Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty.” My soul gasped a mighty yes, and three clicks on Amazon put the book in my hands. If there is anyone who can write with authority about suffering, Joni is the girl.
In the first chapter (through which I wept my way, for the record), JET brings us directly into her own suffering. The voice is raw and authentic, because she chose to write this volume in the midst of per pain instead of glancing at it in her rear-view mirror. She grapples with real fears: “Is my life beginning to unravel? Have I reached my limit in what I can endure?” (p. 30). She describes in detail her current physical maladies. Yet, I never felt as though she is complaining. Rather she is simply opening her life and bearing her heart so that the rest of us in the valley can see the light of Christ.
And she points the reader to Christ with such skill! She acknowledges that, in the suffering, “we are all much more dependent on God for help” (p. 32). She writes of the heart desiring a strong Jesus, as opposed to the “sugary, sentimental images many of us grew up with” (p. 35):
Come on. Admit it: When your heart is being wrung out like a sponge, when you feel like Morton’s salt is being poured into your wounded soul, you don’t want a pale, emotional Jesus who relates only to lambs and birds and babies. You want a warrior Jesus. You want a battlefield Jesus. You want His rigorous and robust gospel to command your sensibilities to stand at attention. . . . You want mighty. You want the strong arm and unshakable grip of God who will not let you go — no matter what. . . . I need Jesus the rescuer, ready to wade through pain, death, and hell itself to find me, grasp my hand, and bring me safely through (p. 35-36).
Yes! Knowing that nothing can pluck me from the hand of God is comforting in a deep, abiding way.
Finally, JET reminds the reader that “these afflictions . . . this very season of multiplied pain — is the background against which God has commanded me to show forth His praise. . . . God bids me that I not only seek to accept it, but to embrace it, knowing full well that somewhere way down deep — in a secret place I have yet to see — lies my highest good” (p. 39).
What a challenge this is to my tired heart! My instinct is to grumble, but no. That will not do! I am to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, [and] give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for [me]” (1 Thess. 5:16-18). I am to trust that all things are working towards my good in Christ — my real good, not the “good” that I prefer or that feels the best —even if I can’t see it yet (or if I never see it on this side of glory).
Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!
From time to time, I’ll likely whip up another post about this book because, so far, the Spirit is using it to minister to me in such sweet ways. I know myself, so I won’t make promises about a timeline. But I’ll write again soon. 🙂
Soli Deo gloria,
Photo credit: hiveresources.com