We love books here at Anchored Voices, and we are busy creating a Summer Reads list for you all. Until then we leave you with this printable, of what may be C.S. Lewis’ s most comfort soaked quote, created by Sarah Dohman.
“When we have begged and demanded from God all that we can, and when he still doesn’t change our situation, we’re left with a choice: we can choose offense with him, or we can choose obedience.”
Happy endings awaken the hope that the dreams locked within our own souls might someday come true. However, our souls know that life doesn’t always work this way. We live in the mess of our own waiting, longing for it to end, and we wonder if the relationship, opportunity, or healing will ever come to be.
We can tire of happy endings when we are waiting for our own. I have been a biblical counselor for years and have long looked for a book that could offer both hope and an ending that is not wrapped up with a pretty, little bow of answered prayers and dreams come true. While I love those stories, and marvel at the things God can do, reality reveals we don’t always see what we are waiting for this side of heaven. There is a day coming when all wrong will be set right, when sickness and death will end, and Jesus will bring relief from the anguish of living in a fallen world; but that day is not yet this day.
What then should we do, while still waiting?
In “Still Waiting” Ann Swindell offers elegant wisdom to those willing to be refined and sculpted through waiting.
“It’s a hard truth: to have Savior who doesn’t always explain what he does or make it easy to follow him. It’s hard to follow a King who won’t always decree what we want. It’s hard to obey a Lord whose ways are higher than mine, a Lord who doesn’t think like I do (see Isaiah 55:8-9)” (p.113).
Swindell walks the reader through the feelings of shame, suffering, and identity questioning that often come from waiting. She doesn’t deny that waiting costs us, “And that’s why, as we wait for God’s breakthrough in our lives, it will cost us a great deal. In fact, waiting well—waiting rightly—will cost us all that we have. It will cost us our illusion of control. It will cost us our self-sufficiency” (p.64). But she offers hope as well, “And yet I always came back to this: God is God, and he loves me and cares for me. Why he wouldn’t heal me, I didn’t pretend to know. But where else could I go (see John 6:68)? He is the Word of Life” (p.113).
Swindell shares details of her own struggle with trichotillomania, and explores the journey of the Bleeding Woman from the Bible. Women of different times, both waiting, both looking to Jesus for sanctuary. I felt my own story wrapped in the words as well. Saw the plights of my friends. The themes reach out to any who have felt the longings that hide away, the weariness of weakness, and the risk required to step out from the places we hide. Her words thrust the reader into the comforting arms of God even when we struggle with Him. Swindell addresses pain, trial, and victory with biblical truth and offers that, “It’s hard to wrestle with a God who doesn’t bend to our desires, even our seemingly good desires….” Then reminds that, “… it’s not that God doesn’t hear. He is not deaf, nor is he powerless (see Isaiah 59:1). He is, in fact, compassionate. Unendingly compassionate. He overflows with unshakable, unbending love” (p.101).
“Still Waiting”, more than anything else, points the reader to Jesus. Swindell invites people to know THE great Hope. The hope that transcends all others. The only hope that is anchored, “There is one truth that allows us to be a people of hope, even as we wait for our own wholeness and healing: Jesus has restored us to himself, to others, and to ourselves. And when the King of kings restores us–soul, body, and life–we are given hope, not only for this life, but for all of eternity.” (211)
You can find “Still Waiting” at most major book retailers, and if you order before April 3rd you can score over $30 of pre-order freebies. I know I offered some of her words in this post, but this was just an appetizer. This book is filled with truths that can set the waiting heart free, and I pray that it will meet you well as you journey through your own waiting.
Ann also offers writing courses and has been published at popular sites around the internet. I had the privilege of taking a course from her about writing as ministry early on in my writing career and what a breath of fresh air it was.
Chara Donahue can often be found with her nose in a book and coffee in hand. She enjoys freelance writing, biblical counseling, and speaking to women when her four kids are out playing with dad. She holds a MSEd from Corban University and is passionate about seeing people set free through God’s truths. She is a regular contributor at Portland Moms Blog and her words have appeared at (in)courage, Patheos, and The Huffington Post. She longs to be a voice that says, “Hey we are in this together, and there is room for us all.” You can find more from Chara at One Anchored Voice, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
I began my 2017 reading with Ann Voskamp’s The Broken Way. Honestly, I hesitated in reading her new book, but I am so glad I did. Ann is a poet; her words demand to be read in a melodic meter. They must be savored, word-by-word. She writes with sincerity and from an unapologetic stance that without Jesus, she would quite literally not be on this earth.
In The Broken Way she builds the readers vocabulary with words that whisper the philosophies of the holy.
Eucharisteo -giving thanks
Koinonia- communion in Christ’s brokenness and giveness
Cruciformity-Christ’s ultimate sacrifice of himself on the Cross. Which as she says, begs us to “Never be afraid of broken things- because Christ is redeeming everything” (187).
As I took in the words and turned each page, God began to show up, as He often does when I am reading words written by those who love Him. I felt both challenged and affirmed as I marinated in the richness of what God taught.
Maybe the only way to care for your wounds is to woo God. And you woo God by pressing your broken wounds into His, and finding that in Him, Him in you, you’re touching the broken wounds of all the other wounded and entering the joy of Him–intimate communion, koinonia, with Him. (220)
Am I living a life in which I share my brokenness readily with God, and in turn, allow my pressing into Him cause an overflow of love for others who are also broken? Are my eyes open and looking for opportunities to speak into brokenness of others with the grace and love of Christ? Do I speak and write about my brokenness without reservation because Jesus broke open for us without reservation?
Someone just choosing to be with you in your fire with a bit of theirs–can turn out to be better than anyone trying to extinguish your fire. Shared flames and shared burned scars can ignite hearts into a great fire that fights fires. (254)
I felt affirmed: In days past, I walked with friends and family amidst the blaze. Anguishing fires are surrounding some of my dear friends and though I can not extinguish the danger, I can stand next to them as the flames press in. Friends and family have not forsaken me in my own brokenness–they’ve not shyed away from the heat of the flames, but point me to the God who can soothe the burns. “When suffering is shared, communion is tasted. And maybe the fellowship of the broken–koinonia in the brokenness–begins to mitigate the suffering” (254).
Ann Voskamp’s The Broken Way reminds the broken to take the brokenness, accept it for what it is, align it with Jesus’ brokenness, and then give the hope you’ve found away.
Give. It harkens. Give.
Give hope away to others who need to know that brokenness leads the way to the abundant life where Jesus dwells.
Sarah Dohman is a nurse, kayak enthusiast, coffee addict, microbrew lover, globe trotter, adorer of friends and family. She has a weakness for donuts, runs in 5k races, and cannot get enough tea and books. She loves writing more than talking (and she talks a lot), can be seen at Target frequently, and is loving life in her thirties. She believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blog or on Twitter.
I am always ready for a new Jennie Allen book. The lady can preach, teach, and lead, and has no problem bringing truth the world needs to hear. She points people at Jesus and she invites the masses to join her in the great adventure: living in the light of God. I was thrilled to be able to join the launch team for Nothing to Prove and was looking forward to diving in, but in doing so I was forced to face motivations, sin, and hurt that had been hibernating.
Here is the thing about hibernating sin: it is still hindering us from the freedom God offers even when it’s quiet, and this is why He is willing to shine light on it if we will come to Him humbly. When I begin a new non-fiction book I ask God three things:
Well, He did all those things, and here is just a piece of what I learned.
When I am surfing on unseen WiFi waves, I am also often hiding. When my kids get too loud, phone up. When I don’t feel like talking to my husband about that thing I need to address or apologize for, play next episode. When the plight of our country is begging for prayer, scroll level: Master. But as Allen said, “The danger for us is not that we would enjoy the cheap wine on earth, but that we would grow addicted to it….If I didn’t believe the lie that these shallow empty pursuits would satisfy me, I guarantee you I wouldn’t keep exchanging mirages for Jesus” (90).
So yes, a good show with deep story is not bad in and of itself, but if it is a form of self-medication or becomes an addiction — If it steals rather than gives, it must be eliminated. I would rather be alive than numb, and I am willing to fight for that. Because, yes, “I want to see Jesus in my everyday life, not just when I arrive in heaven. I want to love Him more than I want to appear religious. I want to love people enough to lead them to the One who can heal them. I want to be healed myself. I want to initiate for the good of those around me rather than pad my existence with comfort and ease” (155).
People pleasing is not typically my modus operandi, I have my own issues that hold me back, but this isn’t a predominant one. To the marrow of my bones I know that God is enough (if you question this truth, this book is for you). I have learned this because I’ve blown it big time. The dark night of the soul and I are well acquainted. But God, oh yes, but God came to my rescue.
“Guess what the person being rescued has to do? Trust the rescuer and cooperate with the process. You and I don’t need to be the hero to save the world we just get to be part of the story of the greatest hero of all time. Which is good news, because being hero is a lot of pressure and a lot of dadgum work.” (135)
As I read, asked the questions, and meditated on the scriptures Allen encourages the reader to engage with, I found within me something I was trying to prove. It stung. Two sentences, each only four words, echoed within me, “Look at me now. You couldn’t stop me.” They were not directed at the masses or even friends, but at those who have hurt me most. Those who have forsaken me, and received my weightiest forgiveness. Here directed toward individuals was a deep, hidden, and pride-filled whisper many would excuse and mark as understandable. While most motivators in my life may be submitted to the Lord, it was clear this one was not. I checked to make sure I had truly forgiven, got down on my knees, put my face to the floor and confessed the pride with sorrow. Then I sought God for the strength to go about doing the work of crucifying this nasty, internal, self-focused, provocation. I am His, which means I don’t have to settle for anything less than freedom.
There is so much more I could tell you about this book, but seriously, why read my words about it when you could read it for yourself? It will convict you, encourage you, and be a tool for God to use so that you can be freed by the great love He has for you. Read it. Be taught and reminded that He is enough. You can cease striving. When you are His, you have nothing to prove.
Readers, One final quote, because it is just SO good. “And then I did it, the most freeing brilliantly foolish thing in my life: I led with everything I had been hiding” (102). What would you do if nothing was holding you back? Would you forgive that person and leave that situation that replays in your mind over and over in the past and be free. Would you make that phone call? Fill out that application? Volunteer for that organization? Write that book (psst…this one is mine)? What would you do? Tell us in the comments, and come back and tell us about your experience with Nothing to Prove. We would love to hear it. You can also join in with other women for the Nothing to Prove Book Club hosted by Jennie Allen.
Chara Donahue can often be found with her nose in a book and coffee in hand. She enjoys freelance writing, Biblical counseling, and speaking to women when her four kids are out playing with dad. She holds a MSEd from Corban University and is passionate about seeing people set free through God’s truths. She is a regular contributor at Portland Moms Blog and her words have appeared at (in)courage, Patheos, and The Huffington Post. She longs to be a voice that says, “Hey we are in this together, and there is room for us all.” You can find more from Chara at One Anchored Voice, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
We have long been told by well-meaning people that everyone has good in them, I want to believe it, but I am keenly aware that while all may be made in God’s image, that doesn’t necessarily mean we reflect His goodness. The mantra has been developed in part because it is hard to face how susceptible we are to chasing our lusts, shocked by how driven we can be by impure desire, and humbled by the fact that without God, we are far from good. Understandably, we want to look at the brighter side of life and not be afraid to fall asleep in a world filled with others conquering or succumbing to the same temptations we know we face each day. However, that is not the only reason so many have come to believe the “all people are basically good”, it is also cherished because of its passivity. We appreciate things that reflect well upon us but require little brain power, which this line of thinking does quite well.
In the word of God we are told that goodness is fruit from the Spirit of God. There it is in Galatians 5 amongst a list of all the other qualities that comprise the fruit that is given to Christ’s followers. It is easy to identify when we are not being loving, kind, or patient, but there are certain attributes listed in the fruit of the spirit that seem harder to assess. To me, goodness is the most troublesome. If someone following Christ is self-controlled, faithful, and at peace, we acknowledge the fruit is present in their life. I can identify in my mind friends who excel at gentleness, or those who seem to be able to hold onto their joy even during hard times. Matthew 7:18-20 says, “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” But goodness itself, what does that look like in a believer? How do we know if goodness is present?
Goodness it seems, is something active, present, and given to the larger community of a person’s life. Not much goodness spills out of an individual if they are a hermit, secluded unto themselves. A recluse can demonstrate patience, peace, and joy but goodness seems to need a receiver to be present.
When I think of a character who exhibited great goodness,I think of the adventures of the fictional Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings series. He enjoyed community, shared his life with others, and would have been perfectly fine staying in the Shire, but then came the day when his goodness led him into more. Sam, who faithfully supported his friend Frodo throughout the story, was a common man with simple desires, but with a depth of character that often made a tremendous impact, as in this scene from The Two Towers:
FRODO: I can’t do this, Sam. SAM: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened. But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something. FRODO: What are we holding on to, Sam? SAM: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.― J.R.R.Tolkien, TheTwo Towers
Can we, like Sam, refuse to turn back? Do we wake with hope for the good that we may be able to unleash into a hurting world, because the Spirit of God resides within us? We can bring beauty; we can bring truth; we can bring the hope of the deepest love ever known, into dark places that have begun to forsake the possibility that there may actually be something that is good all the time.
Let’s plan for good, because good has already been planned for us.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”-Ephesians 2:10
Do things for the benefit of others. This will inconvenience you, but it will be worth it. Think about how to imitate the goodness of Christ, but don’t be weighed down by an expectation that you must earn righteousness. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”-Ephesians 2:28 We are freed from the weight of trying to muster up goodness because we get to rest in that Christ has already made us so, and just let it flow out of us. Find out what you are good at, what makes you come alive, and then make time to do it for others to show love, to encourage hearts, and to share the gospel with those who desperately need to see the glory of God’s goodness energizing a weary world.
Readers, How can you spread goodness today?
This one is for the Jane Austen fans out there, you may recall Mr. Darcy saying in Pride and Prejudice, “My good opinion, once lost, is lost forever.” This arrogant statement is laced with finality. *Spoiler Alert* Mr. Darcy does change his mind in the end about a certain young lady (Lizzy Bennett) and actually marries her! They get a new beginning.
One of my favorite things about God is His willingness to give us new beginnings. What a hopeless world it would be without forgiveness, particularly God’s forgiveness! Recently, I found myself feeling heartsick as I looked at my 3 year old daughter as she sobbed. I had gotten upset with her and made a judgment error in my parenting. She felt I had been harsh with her and I was cut to the heart. I apologized, she forgave, and I knew we would begin again. Young children, like God, are relentlessly forgiving. But I didn’t want to forgive myself. I didn’t want to let myself have a new beginning.
Maybe this is why I am particularly addicted to “firsts.” The first day of the month. The first day of the year. They represent a new start to me. It’s a time when I feel I can give myself permission to let go, move on, and start over. This is silly of course and more symbolic than anything. With God, when I repent and confess my sins, I will always be made clean. My God is not a God of guilt. I love Psalm 103:11-12:
“For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.”
God gives us the ultimate chance at a new beginning . God isn’t saving our sins up to use them as a weapon later. He removes them completely. They are no longer held against us. I think it’s human nature to wallow in guilt and self-pity. As if by punishing ourselves, we can make up for our own wrongs.
Remember: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”~ 2 Corinthians 5:17
Jesus already paid the ultimate price, and He commands us to leave the shackles of the past behind. We get a new beginning. We are new creations. Let’s embrace that.
Sarah Clews is a wife, mother of two little girls, writer and prolific reader. You can find more of her writing at Just Little Things.