Waiting and the Gift of Unanswered Prayer

I’m always honored to write for Desiring God;
this is the start of my newest article for them.
You can read the whole of the article here!

The Gift of Unanswered Prayer at www.annswindell.com

I have been praying the same prayer for healing for more than twenty years.

If you’ve been praying for one particular thing over months or years or decades, then you know how exhausting and difficult it can feel to keep returning to God with the same petition.

I was just a child when I developed trichotillomania — a hair-pulling condition — and while it’s not a life-threatening condition, it has been life-altering for me. Imagine not being able to stop pulling out your own hair, even though you hate how it makes you look — and feel. That’s been my daily experience for more than half of my life.

I’ve been asking God to do what no doctor, therapy, or medication can: heal me. I have tried various therapies and supplements, and I continue to seek to walk in healing, but there’s no clear “cure” for trichotillomania. I know that if I’m going to be healed, I will need a gift of grace from God himself. And while I wholeheartedly believe in God’s ability to heal me, I also know that he hasn’t healed me over these last two decades. Not yet.

Therefore, I wait.

Why Waiting Hurts

 If I’m honest, waiting is something I would prefer to avoid on any level, from waiting for a prayer to be answered all the way down to waiting in line at the grocery store. Why? Because waiting elicits the feeling of helplessness — of having to rely on someone else to act on my behalf.


Waiting forces me to come to terms with my own weakness.
It’s what waiting does to all of us: when we can’t work harder to get what we want, or when we can’t manipulate life to turn out the way we want it to, or when we can’t pay enough money or get enough help to achieve what our heart desperately desires, we are left with the truth of our own insufficiency: we are weak.

God is with you in your waiting: he has heard every prayer, listened to every cry, kept track of every sorrow. Click To Tweet

And we aren’t in control. Not even a little bit. We have to rely on someone else — on God — to act on our behalf.

It’s difficult and humbling to come to terms with our own inability to make anything happen. When we have prayed and longed and hoped and begged and done all that we can and still — still — there is no change in our circumstances, we are forced to stop our striving and simply wait, in large part because there is nothing else for us to do. We must stop and pause and look to God to act. And in that waiting, at the end of our proverbial rope, we will become aware of our inability to attain anything of lasting value on our own.

Read the rest of the article here, at Desiring God!

Waiting with Hope Devotional by Ann Swindell www.annswindell.com

Mardi Gras, Lent, and Jesus

What does Mardi Gras Have to do with Jesus www.annswindell.com

Lent begins this week; it is a season, for Christians, of reflection, of repentance, of remembering the cost of the cross for Christ. It is a season of acknowledging, again, our need for a savior who can rescue us from our untamable sin. 

Lent is a season of acknowledging our need for a savior to rescue us from our untamable sin. Click To Tweet

And tomorrow is Fat Tuesday—more commonly known in its French translation as Mardi Gras. Americans, at least, tend to associate Mardi Gras with parades, with green, yellow, and purple beads, with masks and music and drunkenness. The holiday’s mecca is New Orleans.

But the irony of Mardi Gras—and also the reason it exists—is that it falls on the eve of Lent. Because Lent has historically been a time of fasting and repentance, Mardi Gras is the last day of excess before a season of restriction. Are you giving up chocolate for Lent? Then scarf down not just a piece, but an entire chocolate cake on Fat Tuesday. Are you giving up red meat? Then gorge yourself on hamburgers and steaks before the clock strikes midnight. For when the clock strikes twelve, Lent begins, and we find ourselves like Cinderellas, back in our rags. Our party clothes are gone and it is time to mourn.

This is not really how it works, of course. Mardi Gras revelers party all night, well past the midnight chimes and into Ash Wednesday. But as people of faith, Ash Wednesday is  a day that marks us—figuratively and, in some traditions, literally—for a period of weeks that is meant to change us. Lent: the quiet and repentant season of the Church that seeks to usher in the celebration of Easter. Lent seeks to hush our ravenous appetite for ease and excess and, instead, remind us that the way of Christ is neither of those things. The way of Christ is the way down—down from heaven, down to the dust of the earth and the pain of a cross. It is the way of truth.

The way of Christ is the way down—down from heaven, down to the earth & the pain of a cross. Click To Tweet

I am not in a liturgical church tradition now, although I have been in the past. But still, my soul pauses on the edge of Lent. I want to learn the way of Christ more fully, and I want to join him on that journey to the cross. It is not an easy journey; it has never been an easy one. But through his humility and his sacrifice, Jesus showed us the path to the deepest joy: the path of obedience to the Father, the creator and lover of our souls.

If words like obedience and repentance and reflection and sin make us want to turn away–if the thought of sobering ourselves and acknowledging our deep neediness for salvation is challenging–then that is exactly why we need the season of Lent the most. We need to be reminded of our humanity, of our brokenness, of the places in our hearts and minds and bodies that still cling to darkness.

We need Jesus. We need him desperately, because we need to be saved from the darkness that still lingers inside of us. 

We need Jesus because we need to be saved from the darkness that still lingers inside of us. Click To Tweet

And so, let us invite Christ into our lives afresh this Lent. Let us stand on the cusp of these days before Easter and remember why we are so desperate for Easter in the first place: we need new life. We don’t need another holiday or another reason to dress up. We need healing. We need wholeness. We need saving. We need Him. 

Lent rightly reminds us of our need and our neediness.

But Lent also reminds us that our brokenness and need did not keep God away; no, not at all. In fact, it drew him close–so close that he became one of us to save all of us.

That’s the good news of the Gospel, whispered like a secret during the days and weeks of Lent: yes, we are broken and breaking, yes we are full of neediness and hurt. But yes! Christ has come for us, and yes, he has pulled us out of the miry pit. Yes, Christ has paid the price for our lives, and yes–he will come again.

Praise Him.

Good Friday and the Ache in Our Soul: How Jesus Meets Us

This is an adaptation of a post I wrote last year; I still feel this ache at Easter this year…

The Ache in Our Soul- How Jesus Meets Us There

It seems that I tend to travel a lot during the Spring; this year has been no different, with a trip to what will soon become our new home city, a short trip to the Redbud Writer’s Retreat, and a trip down to Dallas this past weekend for a conference. And so, this past weekend was the third weekend in a month that I was away from home—something very odd for me. Michael and I love traveling, but I am a homebody at heart, and I love having consistency in my life.  Yet one of the sweetest things about traveling, for this homebody, is the longing that develops in me when I am away from home. There is a familiar ache that bubbles up, whether I am in Wisconsin, Colorado, or England—the ache for a place where I know the corners of the rooms, the ache for a place where the walls and bed and blankets are familiar, loved, home.

And that feeling knocks on my heart at unexpected moments: when we were in Grand Rapids this past year, for example, my mother drove us past her childhood home, her elementary school, and her family’s church.  My grandpa was a Methodist minister, and so she moved several times as a child, but it was in this city that she started going to school, and her memories of Grand Rapids are vivid. I loved seeing bits of her life through these buildings—the house where she lived, the steps she climbed on her first day of kindergarten, the steeple of the church where my grandfather preached. And although those places were not mine, I felt that old ache flutter again.

C.S. Lewis has written about this ache. In “The Weight of Glory,” he writes,

These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

“News from a country we have never yet visited.”

Home.

Easter, which we are looking toward, is about many things. But in one sense, it is about home. It is about Jesus making a way for us to be able to enter the Home that we were created for. It is that “country” we keep hearing news from—that ache that bubbles up, that longing that draws us to beauty and goodness and light. The ache for wholeness, and freedom, and perfection—the ache for heaven.

Jesus is the only one who could become the doorway for us to that Home. His body, broken and torn, became the doorway that allows us to enter in and walk into right relationship with God. And through the doorframe of that empty tomb–his resurrection–we get to enter into that home with him, forever. He crossed the threshold from death to life and held the door open for us, too.

Christ's body, broken and torn, became the doorway that allows us to enter into right relationship… Click To Tweet

Home. It is what we long for, ache for, desire. In these days of Holy Week leading up to Easter, we can remember afresh that because of the great cost Christ paid for us on the cross, and because of the great miracle of his resurrection, we have an answer to all of the aching and longing that we find in our own hearts.

We can remember that we have found our truest home—in Him.

 

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Secure and Steadfast: Learning to Trust

SECURE and STEADFAST-LEARNING TO TRUST

Some of you may already know, but it’s not something I’ve shared in this space yet: we are moving this summer, to a new city and a new adventure. My husband will be in graduate school for the next three-ish years, and we will be closer to family as he studies and works on finishing his degree.

There are so many things I’m excited about in this transition–a new city to explore, new relationships to form, being next door to my sister, opportunities to grow. Most of all, I’m excited to follow the Lord, as this is the next door he has opened for us in this great journey of walking with Him.

But I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t nervous, too. I’ve lived in Chicagoland for all of my adult life; Michael and I have been in this same city for over a decade. We have a rich community of friends and a church that we love. We have jobs. None of these things that have been so central and grounding for us in this town will be present when we move this summer.

And so it feels like starting all over again–and, in many ways, it is. As a recovering control-freak, all of the details of moving–selling the house, looking for jobs, finding a new home, making new friendships–these have the ability to freak. me. out. If I spend too much time thinking about those things, I start spiraling into a mental place of worry, fear, and doubt. I imagine all of the things that could go wrong and all of the ways that this move might not go well.

But God is continually calling me back to one thing: trusting Him. I mentioned it on my Instagram account earlier this month, but my word for the year is TRUST. I always need to trust Jesus, but this year in particular, when all of the cards of our life are up in the air, I feel the need to trust God in a deeper way, perhaps in a way I haven’t felt the need to trust him before. I need to trust him, deeply and wholeheartedly, with our family’s finances, our family’s friendships, and our family’s future. Because I have no idea how any of those things will get worked out in the next six months.

And yet, hasn’t this always been the case? Of course it has; it’s just that the trusting hasn’t felt as desperate in the past. I have always needed to trust God to give me even my daily bread, but I don’t always think that way. In truth, I have nothing apart from him and I am nothing apart from him. But when life starts rolling along, that desperation of needing to rely on Jesus tends to fade for me.

So here I stand, at the start of a year that will look nothing like it does at the end of it. In twelve months, nearly everything externally will have changed. But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever, and I am aware of my deep need to trust in him afresh. Trusting is difficult at times; I don’t always feel a deep sense of security or safety. But trusting God does not always mean that we feel secure or steadfast–it means that He is secure and steadfast, regardless of our feelings.

Trusting God does not mean that we feel secure or steadfast--it means that He is secure and… Click To Tweet

He is constant in his kindness, his salvation, and his love. He is a good Father who gives good gifts to his children. I can rely on who He is even when I’m not sure where I’m going–practically or emotionally. And so this year, I am choosing to trust him, again and again. He is good, and his love endures forever.

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

I can count on Him to lead us and care for us. You can, too. Here’s to a year of wholehearted, un-hindered trust in Jesus–the One who is completely trustworthy.

The Best Resolution

 

The best resolution at www.annswindell.com

I’m not sure that I’ve ever really made a New Year’s Resolution. I’m not someone who gets really envisioned by these types of things. But there is one type of resolution I made nearly a decade a ago that has utterly transformed my life. 

I seek to spend time with Jesus every. single. day.

Of course, there are days when life gets a little too crazy and I don’t manage to get time with him, but by and large, I spend time with the Lord every day of the week, every week of the year. I don’t say this because I’m fantastic; I say this because I’m a broken and sinful person, desperately in need of the healing and love of Christ every. single. day. It’s spiritual life and death for me; spending time with Jesus is the only thing that keeps me hopeful, kind, and loving–because He is hopeful, kind, and loving. When I spend time with him, I become more like him, and that is what I need most of all.

When it comes to getting time reading the Word, praying and journaling, I’m committed to spending daily time with Jesus because I’ve discovered that more than time and money, more than romance and entertainment, more than fame and Facebook, Jesus is worth everything. Absolutely everything. He holds time in his hands and he, himself, is everything of value. He is the deepest love and the richest reward. He is the only famous one and the friend of all. He is the prize. He is the treasure. He is the King.

And I have been given the gift of not only being saved from my sin but also of being healed from the inside out by his love and mercy and grace. Spending time with him is a deep privilege. Knowing him is an opportunity greater than any offered on this earth.

If you want some practical ideas for spending time with Jesus, I’ve shared my heart on getting to know him intentionally–you can read about those thoughts here.

So as 2015 whispers in like a song yet to be sung, let’s turn our time and our hearts, again, to Jesus. He is so worthy, friends. And completely available to meet with us every day of the year.

Receiving Grace: Friendship that Points to Jesus

Things have been a little quieter around here, in large part because I’m back to teaching. But they’re also quieter because I’ve intentionally pulled back a bit. I’ve realized, over the last month, that my heart simply needs more time away from the screen, and even from the words that I love so much. More time to rest, more time to think, more time to journal, more time to pray. I need more time with my husband, I need more time with my little girl, I need more time with the women who hold up my arms as a new mom and are in these beautiful and difficult trenches with me.

Ann Swindell + Life with a Toddler

I have been feeling soul-tired lately, and when that happens its time to get back to the basics: Jesus, family, friends, sleep. As a chronic over-achiever, I would like to think that I can push through anything, but that’s not the case.

And, so, I am slowing in the ways that I can. And I am opening up these soul-tired places in me to my friends. I am sharing my life with them so that they can speak truth, offer encouragement, and point me to Jesus. These are the things we have been doing for each other for years; lately, though, I find I am more on the receiving end than usual. And that’s ok. We all have seasons where we need others to offer their strength to us. I’m grateful.

My real-life friends are central in this journey I am living. But next week, I am also thankful that I get to go and make some new friends–and turn online friends into real-life friends. I’m headed to the Influence Conference, which focuses on keeping Jesus at the center of our online lives–something so beautiful and so necessary.

For those women who I will meet there, we are sharing a link-up. So here’s a bit about me: I’m a wife, mom, pastor’s wife, and college instructor. I was in school for most of my life as a student, and now I’m still in school–but on the other side of the classroom. I teach creative writing and creative nonfiction courses to college students, and I love it. I also write for multiple publications and love speaking to groups of women. My husband is my best friend and February will mark 10 years of dating (we’ve been married for 8+ of those years). I hope we have a good 60+ years left together! Our daughter, Ella, was born on our seventh anniversary and she is a delight!

I’m very much looking forward to the Strategy classes, and you’ll rarely find me without a cardigan (I get cold easily…and I’m a teacher. Ha!).

I’d love to meet you online as we prepare for #influenceconf, and I’m so looking forward to giving you a hug in person next week! Here’s to making much of Jesus!