Book Review: Still Waiting, by Ann Swindell

In her book, Still Waiting: Hope For When God Doesn't Give You What You Want, Ann Swindell tells the biblical story of the woman healed by Jesus who had been bleeding for 12 years and makes comparisons with her own personal struggles coping with Trichotillomania, a hair pulling disorder. Swindell skillfully weaves the two narratives so that the reader has a chance to walk beside the characters in their pain and gain insights and understandings that only an intimate friend might learn.

Swindell writes with vulnerability, authenticity and faith of her helplessness to overcome her condition and of the loneliness, pain, frustration and shame she experienced. Those who have struggled with difficult situations will recognize some of the feelings she describes, even if the particulars of their sources of pain are different. At times, I wanted less repetition and fewer words, but the frequent meadows of beauty of Swindell's prose and the word pictures she created made spending time learning about this woman of God and her struggles worth the journey.

Swindell unravels the role of the love of God throughout her long journey and of his faithfulness to accept her, value her, and work in and through her. Hope and faith are strong cords in the intertwined stories.

Hope and faith are sometimes frayed cords in my story. After my parents were divorced, my sister and I lived with our single mother until she was first hospitalized, when I was 10, with an extreme mental illness from which she never recovered. She bounced in and out of hospitals for decades before she died in 2013. There were several difficult issues to sort through in my family that complicated growing up and complicated my walk with God, begun while I was living in Hollygrove, a Christian children's home in Hollywood and in foster homes.

As a new Christian in the 1970s, I had the opportunity to attend Biola, a Christian college where my ambitions to follow Jesus were greater than my abilities and brokenness. And I felt defeated. But, God in his kindness, gave me a loving husband and home that has been a place of refuge and growth for more than 40 years while we raised four children who are now grown and have children of their own. Although my experience of waiting, like Swindell's story (so far), never resulted in physical healing for my mother, God has patiently been teaching me to trust him, by revealing his grace and compassion through many blessings and challenges. God has been waiting for me to grow up and let go of what could never be: I'd never have a normal family background and parents, I'd always be from the extremes. But, I can talk about it more now because God has been steadily healing broken places in me, and I feel more confident his love is at work through pain and results in our good. So, like Swindell, my hope is in God . . . because of his faithfulness, his purposes and his power.

While reading Swindell's story, some might make comparisons of degrees of pain, but that would be a mistake. Pain is pain and it hurts. The heart of Swindell's book reveals the character of a loving God at work through a difficult situation to create something and someone who is beautiful. God makes a difference in the journey and the destination. Swindell faithfully documents this truth, even though her fervent prayers did not receive the answer she wanted. Swindell's story is worth reading and will strike familiar chords with others who know what it is to want what can't be, but who find that God's presence and blessings are a better answer than we expected.

Disclosure: Tyndale House Publishers provided me with an electronic Advanced Reading Copy of this book for review purposes, with the understanding that I would write an honest and independent review.

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