Book Review

When God Doesn’t Heal: 5 Lessons from “Still Waiting” by Ann Swindell

We’re all waiting for something—a nice plot twist, an emotional breakthrough, recovery from illness, healing in our relationships, a test result, or a better job.

There’s no avoiding the waiting season; waiting is and always will be a part of life.

It isn’t always hard to wait. But if you’ve been longing for something for too long—unsure of when it’ll arrive or if it ever will—the waiting game could feel like a losing game. Life becomes frustrating, it doesn’t feel fair, and we could end up doubting our worthiness for the things we desire. // insert vlog title

In the book Still Waiting, Ann Swindell shares her battles and breakthroughs in waiting for healing. Having lived most of her life with trichotillomania, a condition that has no known cure, Ann offers an honest take on the struggles and joys of finding hope in areas where we can’t seem to make things happen—areas where the answer we get is No or a repetitive Not Yet, where hopelessness is the more reasonable response, where we can’t muscle through, and where waiting feels like a dark tunnel leading to a dead end.

RECOMMENDED: Living, Thriving with Chronic Pain

If you’ve been waiting for a breakthrough, Still Waiting offers a guide in navigating the waiting season in a way that produces perseverance, character, and hope.

As someone who has gone through both the seasons of hope and hopelessness in the waiting, I’m delighted to share with you my five best takeaways from this book.

God sees and validates my pain.

There’s always a bigger kind of suffering—a more pressing issue, a person who, in certain ways, deserves more attention, more love, and more grace.

But in Ann’s retelling of the Bible’s narrative of the bleeding woman (see Mark 5:25-34), what I saw is that God sees and validates our pain, even if it seems small when weighed against another person’s—or a nation’s or the whole earth’s—kind of suffering.

Ann helped me see the bleeding woman’s story in a different light.

Jesus was on the way to save Jairus’ dying daughter when he felt that someone touched his robe and that power had gone out from him (Mark 5:30). Jairus was a known ruler and it made sense to prioritize him. He’s influential, after all, and his testimony would reach a lot more people compared with the bleeding woman who had been an unclean outcast for 12 years.

Besides, Jairus’ daughter was on the brink of death while the bleeding woman had bled for 12 years and could probably survive several years more with her condition.

But Jesus did the unthinkable: he stopped for the bleeding woman. He saw her and recognized that her pain matters, and he healed her.

My weakness doesn’t define my worth.

Sufferings have a way of clouding over our being. When we’ve suffered something for too long, the suffering starts to touch everything about us. It affects everything we do, it stains the thoughts we allow to linger, and it could easily distort our beliefs about ourselves.

According to the Levitical law, the bleeding woman was an unclean woman. Not only that, but everything that she touched in all those 12 years that she had bled became unclean.

As Ann narrated, the woman’s sickness became her identity; she’s the woman who bled continually, whom doctors couldn’t heal. She’s the unclean girl who was not allowed to participate in community gatherings, whose possessions had been spent on treatments that did her no good.

But when Jesus saw her, he spoke identity to her: “Daughter, your faith has healed you.” (Mark 5:34a). He called her “daughter” when she had always lived her life as if she were forsaken. He spoke belonging when the whole community took the bleeding woman as an outcast.

The story of the bleeding woman is something I’ve known since I was a child attending Sunday school. But Ann offered new insights into her story, revealing not just the likely suffering of bleeding for years but also the new hope in finding a new and beautiful identity.

Our self-image doesn’t have to center on our weaknesses. Our stories need not revolve around our pain or our areas of lack. When we take the identity that God has always had for us, we see who we’ve always been: beloved.

We’re all a little broken. And it’s okay.

We’re all yearning for something. Even the wealthiest people or those who seem to have it all hold places of lack in their lives. That’s just the truth of living in this world.

But when our areas of lack loom large and when our weaknesses seem to win, it becomes easier to just hide. But in the long run, we discover that what hiding really does is it makes us more broken.

In the book, Ann shared how she tried to hide her condition. Reading those parts were painful for me because I also used to hide my conditions that I found hideous.

And hiding is tiresome. It’s painful, and it limits the ways that people can show up for us and be with us in our struggles.

Plus, I realized that the people we hide our flaws from have their own share of struggles and brokenness. That’s just how life is. And maybe, while we’re in this world, we just have to learn to make peace with living flawed lives.

RECOMMENDED: Power of Showing Up Raw & Honest

I’m all in when it comes to seeking ways to improve what can be improved in ourselves and in our lives, but I think that learning how to stand unfazed between where we are and where we want to be makes a huge difference.

Shame is always willing to take up space.

Here’s a bigger enemy that likes sticking itself to our places of lack: shame.

Shame is self-entitled—it takes up space without having to be asked, it loves keeping our struggles company.

In the words of Ann:

Shame makes it seem that our value is tied to our brokenness. Shame pairs our worth with our weakness. Shame yokes us to lies. Shame tells us that our identity is only as whole as the image we can put forward.

But shame lies. What shame wants is to keep us small.

In Ann’s stories of feeling ashamed of trichotillomania, a condition that she has no control of and health professionals cannot cure, we see how shame tries to twist her view of herself and her understanding of how she stands before God. I see how shame does this to my life, too.

But when we choose to brave through our struggles and break through our shame, what I realize is that God isn’t ashamed of us—and that truth changes everything. 

If you’re a believer, your belief by itself is a declaration that you cannot do anything on your own, that you need God—and there’s no shame in that. Our lack—our brokenness—reveals our need for grace.

Getting what I’ve been waiting for doesn’t make me whole.

This is my favorite takeaway from Still Waiting. Getting what I’ve been begging God for would be wonderful and miraculous and will surely change a lot of things in my life, but they cannot and will not make me whole.

Only God can make me whole.

Have you ever been so giddy and restless about buying something you really like? And then when you finally have it, you feel happy. But then, that happiness fades, and so you seek that kind of happiness again from other things.

It’s the same with hope. When we put our hope on things of this broken world, our hope fails us. It might work from time to time, but the impact is short-lived. Shallow, even.

Still Waiting helped me see that the things I’m praying for,  no matter how big of a deal they are—even if they have something to do with a life-or-death situation—are not my highest good. Only God is my highest good—not my healing, not answered prayers.

DISCLAIMER: This post is not sponsored. However, there may be affiliate links in the post, through which I can earn commissions from qualifying purchases at no additional costs to shoppers.

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