In Lucy Maud Montgomery’s book, “Anne of Green Gables,” Anne Shirley bemoans her task of constant care for small children with the confession that “twins seem to be my lot in life.” That phrase has bubbled up to the surface of memories throughout my adult life because for me, waiting seems to be my lot in life.
I look backward at years upon years of infertility coupled with years of pain and illness, and I know that one of the Lord’s aims in my sanctification is to learn to wait well.
Oh, I’m bad at it.
And that’s why I jumped at the chance to be on the launch team for Ann Swindell’s new book, Still Waiting: Hope for When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want.
Ann’s book arrived on my doorstep a few weeks ago, and I devoured it in about 3 days. Each chapter begins with the continued, embellished story of the both well and little known Bleeding Woman mentioned in the gospel of Mark (ch. 5). Well known because we’re familiar with her story, but little known because Mark gave us only a few details about her. What we do know is that she waited for twelve long years to be healed and that Jesus was the one who finally healed her. With research and creativity, Ann paints a picture of what the Bleeding Woman’s life might have been like during those long twelve years.
Standing juxtaposed to the story of the Bleeding Woman is Ann’s story of her decades-long desire to be healed from a medical condition/compulsive disorder called trichotillomania. Ann walks us through her struggle with her condition and the ways she has longed for and sought out healing. Her story veers away from the Bleeding Woman, though, because Ann is still waiting for her healing.
And I think that is the very reason I found her book to be so comforting.
Ann wrote it from the position of still waiting, not done waiting.
I don’t want to write too much about the content because I really want you to read Ann’s book for yourself, but my favorite part of the book came near the end, from chapter 9, “Waiting with Grace.” At this point in the book, Ann has covered so much ground about waiting—how it makes us feel broken and weak, how we feel identified and named by our suffering, how waiting can feel humiliating and shameful. She points us to the cross of Christ repeatedly, which I cannot praise enough. The gospel is enough for us as we wait, and I say that a someone who is still waiting. In chapter 9, Ann recounts the story from her childhood when she broke her elbow. Her doctor-father’s presence in the midst of her pain is a beautiful parallel to the Lord’s promise of presence in our suffering.
That is grace. And that is the grace I’ve experienced with God in the midst of my struggle with [trichotillomania]. I’m not yet healed, but he has bound me up in a cast of his love. He has been present with me, and he has never left my side. Although at times I have felt alone and angry and frustrated, God is a good Father, and he has been with me through the pain and suffering [trichotillomania] has caused in my life Through it all, he has told me that he loves me and that he will never leave me. The grace I have received has not been the grace of healing. It has been the grace of his presence.
If I have learned anything in waiting it is that. Sometimes the Lord leads us through the valley of the shadow of death so that we know He is with us. I wouldn’t have known the presence of God the way I do if not for the long seasons of waiting in my life.
Last fall I asked readers what their biggest struggles were, and waiting topped the list by a landslide. Here’s the post I wrote in response to that which goes along well with Ann’s book: The Weary Work of Waiting.