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Our Path to Peace: Ann & Michael Swindell

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
April 3, 2023 5:15 am

Our Path to Peace: Ann & Michael Swindell

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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April 3, 2023 5:15 am

Ann Swindell, author of The Path to Peace, and her husband Michael relay the story of harrowing years of depression, loss, and feeling for God in the dark.

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Read this article by Ann Swindell about helping your kids find peace.

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What I cried out to the Lord was, this is not the life I signed up for. This is not what I want.

And I can't change it. And the only one who can is apparently refusing to change the life that I have right now. We signed up to be those who carry our crosses and follow Jesus. We did not sign up for an easy life.

We signed up for Christ, and He promises us that we're going to have trouble, but He also promises us His presence and His nearness, and that He has ultimately overcome the world. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson. And I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at familylifetoday.com or on the Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. So we usually start the program with you asking me some question, but today— I know, I always come up with something that sort of surprises you. I'm going to ask you a question today. No, no, no, no. It's not in the script. Here it goes.

So which period of our marriage have you had the most sleepless nights? Wow. What do you think? Wow.

Still got the question. I think you might be surprised. Okay. It's right now. Really?

Yeah, I never thought that would happen. Well, yeah, I wake up a lot. About? Anxious about the future, retirement. You know, yeah, I don't know.

It's like that kind of stuff. You should wake me up. No. I would pray for you and help you. Well, then you wouldn't go to sleep. You'd be like, oh, we don't have that much money? You don't even care. Dave's got it. I mean, honestly, I think back over our years, 42 years of marriage, when the kids were little, a lot of sleepless nights because they were waking up and peeing in the bed and all that stuff.

And they would have hit teen years. But no, seriously. I need to experience God's peace in the middle of the night. It's funny because the times that I wake up are usually about things that are going on relationally. You know, I'm struggling. I'm worrying about the kids. I'm worrying about our marriage. Like, how are we doing?

Yeah, I'm not worried about any of that stuff. Why are we talking about this today? Well, we need a path to peace. You know what?

I have a book right here called The Path to Peace. And the author Anne Swindell is here with her husband, Michael Swindell. And I don't know if you've ever been in studio together, but let me say to both of you, welcome to Family Life Today. It's great to be here. You've never done this together? No, this is brand new for us, but we're pretty excited about it.

We're excited about it. Yeah, as I watched you online and stuff, I've never seen you, Michael. I've only seen Anne and all these podcasts. She finally brought me out of the shadows. Well, let me ask you, because the subtitle of your book is called Experiencing God's Comfort When You're Overwhelmed. You guys have been married how long? Sixteen and a half years. And you have two kids that are how old?

Nine and five. You've lived enough life that you've experienced being overwhelmed. Absolutely. Absolutely, yeah. You've got a pretty overwhelming journey you've been on. So help our listeners understand, because we're going to talk about peace, but what we were just talking about is the lack of peace you've experienced.

Yeah. I mean, we think back, our marriage has seen a lot of different ups and downs. And what I wrote about in this book, The Path to Peace, was probably one of the most, if not the most, intensive season of our marriage. Sure.

Michael's a pastor and had a pastoral job and was fired for telling the truth. And so overnight, really, our lives went from what felt like pretty stable and consistent, not without its bumps, but overnight went to just what felt like chaos. Wouldn't you say?

Yeah, I would say. I mean, you talked about not sleeping well because of relational conflict or anxiety. And yeah, that was definitely a season where you're waking up and just crying out to the Lord, you know, just weeping and saying, Lord, what just happened?

Like, how did we get to this place? And it sounds like, again, maybe you don't want to get into details, but it sounds like it was unjust. If you told the truth, whatever that means. I would say so. Yeah.

I would say so. And so you've got that part of it as well, not just I lost my job, but it was— Like, this is wrong. Right.

Yeah. And it was the first time for me that I felt like, wow, that was really wrong. And like, had no deserving of what just happened. And so you don't realize how much God speaks about justice and vindication of the righteous until you start reading the Psalms again and you go, wait a minute, I can kind of feel this thing. I relate to this David guy. I relate to David and Proverbs.

There's a lot about the just and the righteous and Proverbs. And did you feel that as a wife? Absolutely. What happened? Were you so mad? I was furious, but I was also terrified. I was furious because I know my husband. I know the man of integrity that he is. And what happened to him in that job loss was not just unfair, but it was wrong.

And so I was immensely proud of him for doing what was right, for standing up for the truth. But the reality of the fallout practically in our lives also hit every security button that I have. Because when you're a pastor, you're not just losing your job, you're losing your community. Your people.

Exactly. Your church home, your spiritual family. So really overnight, we didn't just lose a job and the financial stability, which already pushes a lot of my buttons. But we lost 98% of our community, really. And we started to learn that most of the people that we had considered friends either wanted to be our friends because of proximity to power.

That can get really weird when you're in pastoral ministry, or just because we were providing them with some sort of spiritual support that once we weren't in that role anymore, our friendship wasn't valuable to them. And so it was a lot of different things that were really being stripped away very rapidly as far as financial security, relational security. And then Michael really spiraled into depression during that time, which is not surprising. So then I felt like I had to kind of hold things together. So it was an immensely stressful season.

Michael, what did that look like? What did depression look like? Yeah, I mean, I'd never weep so much in my life. There was a moment probably two days after where I came home to an empty house and just groans.

Really? Didn't even have words for it. I've never wept like that. It was just a weeping. And I remember the prayer that came out was, God, not your church, not your church, Lord.

Like in the world, maybe, but not your church, Lord. People you don't expect. People you never expected. And it happened so fast and so quick. And it's just a whirlwind. So yeah, it was a lot of weeping. And it was a lot of time in prayer. I mean, one of the things that was great is Anne and I were doing a lot of the blocking and tackling.

We were getting tough. Hey, did you just use a football reference? I did. I did for you, Dave.

You know, that never happens in your family life today. Look how excited he just got. We were getting in God's word. We were praying. We were praying together. We were doing those basics. We just had to put those basics on steroids. We just had to do a lot of those, a lot of the time to make it through. Anne graciously took the kids for a couple hours each day when I was crying out to the Lord. How old were your kids at that point?

Three and seven. So you've got that. I mean, it's a full-time, never-ending job.

That's a busy stage. And our son at the time, no, he was two. That's what it was. He was two because he had some really intensive GI allergies. So we were dealing with a lot of food and sensitivity issues. And then our daughter, who she just didn't understand, like, why can't we go back to church? These are all my friends.

This is my whole life. And I didn't understand, you know, why would the other pastors do this? Like, why would they tell us we can't come back to that church? And so you've got all the layers of, like, I want to protect my daughter's faith.

We want to help her navigate this season well. We also aren't going to lie to her, but we're not going to tell her adult things that she doesn't need to know. You don't want to scar her for the future of church or what she believes.

Exactly. And we are diehard church people. People have asked us a lot, like, well, didn't that just make you want to leave the church?

And it's like, no. It made us want to pour back into the bride of Christ, but we had to get healed up first. So what did that look like? How did that go? It took a while. It took a while. Like, how long?

Oh, sometimes we wonder, we're like, are we healed yet, Lord? It's still there. I mean, how many years ago was that? Three and a half. Three and a half.

Oh, so that's not that long. I mean, we both were in counseling that we did Christian counseling separately and together. We did a ton of just praying together, praying with friends, reading the Word. Did it impact your marriage? Positive, negative? Oh, yeah.

I think more positive. I mean, one of the things that Ann said after one particularly difficult conversation on the phone is, you said, I've never been more proud of you. And to have your spouse say that when you are spiraling down is so unbelievable. I mean, there's times where you just can't think clearly.

And Ann, a little bit from the outside looking in, was able to speak that life in such a positive way. So we call ourselves Team Swindell and a lot, that's just kind of a phrase we use. And we really were Team Swindell in that season.

When you're depressed, you're a little short of temper. I mean, she put up with me in a good way. But never felt like we were on opposing teams. Always felt like we were in it together.

And that's a gift. And I realized I had that choice to make too, right? Because as a wife, if your husband loses his job and that's, as a family, what you're most dependent on for the practical things. And then emotionally, I mean, it's not that he was depressed and non-functional, but there were a lot of days where he was barely functional. You know, just really struggling to do anything of any value, you know, maybe unloading the dishes or something. But I remember having multiple times where I realized I have to make the choice to support him right now.

Because my flesh instinct, my natural instinct would be like, I need you to suck it up and pull it together and you got to move on. But I also realized if I am not a safe place for him in this season, he has no other safe places. He has the Lord and he has me. And if I refuse to take this opportunity that the Lord is giving me to be a safe landing place for him, not to coddle him, he's not a child, but to be a tender place of affection, of comfort, of support.

If I won't do that, nobody else will. And so it was really a choice that I made to say, I'm going to be the safest place for him. It was costly. It was hard. I had a lot of moments of crying out to the Lord and saying, how are we going to pay these bills, God? How is our family going to make it?

Like, is Michael ever going to come out of this depression? Because it lasted, you know, for a long time. But God provided every need. God took care of us. And in the middle of the storm, we were able to experience God's peace as we stayed unified and as we stayed in the word of God together. This really says a lot about your foundation being on the rock of Jesus. Amen. Because, Anne, like it would have been so, as a young mom with these young kids, as you're stressing over the bills and he's not really, Michael, you're not able at that point to really kick in everything.

Right. If your hope was in Michael, you would have been lost, but your hope was in Jesus. And so to even pour those words into him, I'm really proud of how you're going through this and handling this. Man, that's what we need. We need that total amazing grace from our spouse, don't we?

Yeah, absolutely. And I think back to, like, Michael has really shown that to me in different seasons. One of the things I write about in this book, the path to peace that happened a couple years before Michael was fired, is we went through a season of having multiple miscarriages between our kids. And, I mean, you want to talk about like emotionally non-functional and just struggling. I was in the depths of darkness, you know, and I just, I remember looking back, you're like, how did you put up with me, you know, not because it wasn't right for me to grieve and be sad.

And Michael was grieving in his own way, but I think as women we experience loss and just the desire from our children differently. And so we've both had seasons where we've needed to carry each other and to be really tender with one another. And it's not easy. It's not easy to be the spouse that has to shoulder most of the weight in a particular season. But I'm so thankful that we've had the privilege of getting to do that for each other. I mean, what would you say to the listener that's right now in a storm, in a season?

It could be a job loss, it could be anything. You've said it already, I think. But it's almost like, what would you say to the spouse who's watching their husband or watching their wife's really struggle? What did you do for one another that as you look back, it's like, oh, that was what I needed.

So helpful. Obviously grace, words of life to you, Michael. I mean, we already heard that, but is there anything that sticks out like, you know, almost like you could counsel a couple right now, it's like, we're there.

Say something to us, help us, you know? Yeah, I would say God is enough. He's always enough. And God is wonderful at meeting you in ways that He didn't meet you in a prior season because you didn't need it. I think we think, you know, we're in this harder season now, but God knows you're in a harder season now. And God's going to meet you in that harder season in a way He didn't in a prior season. He's always been enough. And His Spirit, He will overwhelm you at times when you need it, and He will support you when you need it.

And if you just keep seeking Him, and by that I mean, get in God's Word, pray, pray with your spouse. It sounds so basic. But you need those even more in the difficult seasons, not less. There's not like, do this in the hard season.

It's like, do those things more in this season. Did you ever feel like, God, what are you doing? Like, were you mad at God in a way? Like, not understanding?

So upset. The introduction of this book, and I wrestled with, do I actually write about this? Like, is this okay for me to write about?

But it's actually one of the things that has resonated with readers the most is I had this, I'm not sure I've ever been more angry in my life night with the Lord and with Michael. And it was a November night, and it was months after he'd gotten fired, and literally nothing was changing. Michael was still depressed. We had no clarity about what we were doing in the future. We had no job offers.

We had no financial breakthrough. And I just remember thinking like, this could last forever. And I was so mad because I felt like, God, we have been faithful to you. It's not like we're like prodigal kids who are off doing crazy things and spending our money on- Why do the wicked flourish?

Exactly. And I just came to this point where, and I think sometimes in our own strength, all of us go, okay, I can be faithful. I'll do the hard thing with God.

But as the pain continues week after week, month after month, sometimes year after year, you go, God, is this not enough? What I cried out to the Lord was, this is not the life I signed up for. This is not what I want. And I can't change it.

And the only one who can is apparently refusing to change the life that I have right now. And I was, I mean, I was screaming. I was so furious at the Lord just, this is not what I signed up for, God. This is not the life that I wanted. You know, I'd been crying and then you get mad crying, you know?

And Michael was next to me and we were both just so deflated. But I remember him looking at me and tenderly but firmly saying, Ann, what do you think you signed up for? And I just was like, why do you always ask the questions that make me actually deal with the stuff, you know? Because you know what we signed up for? We signed up to be those who carry our crosses and follow Jesus.

That's right. We did not sign up for an easy life. We signed up for Christ and He promises us that we're going to have trouble. But He also promises us His presence and His nearness and that He has ultimately overcome the world.

And so, yeah, I've been real mad at the Lord. But I've also found Him to be the safest place, even more than Michael and I can be safe for each other. Christ has proven to show Himself and to be for us our safe landing place. And the one who can give us that peace that surpasses understanding, you know, that Paul writes about, it's what Christ says in John 14, 27, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, not as the world gives, it's not a circumstantial peace. Our circumstances were a disaster. We had no clarity, we had no vision, we had no direction, we had no breakthrough. But Christ promises a peace that lasts regardless of what we're facing.

And that was ultimately what that season built in us. It wasn't pretty, but what God did in that season was He built in us a communion with Him and a stability based on Christ and not on our situation that has fed us with the peace of Jesus into all the new circumstances that we're walking in. I just think it's beautiful. You know, when I look at your subtitle, here's what I think. You know, experiencing God's comfort when you're overwhelmed, I think, oh, it's just a nice comfort. You know, you sort of think God's peace is not going to be in the middle of this valley. Because I was thinking, you know, when Michael said that to you, another response instead of your response was, you're right.

It could have been, I didn't sign up for this. No, I didn't, you know. But there's a depth of, I'm guessing, a relationship with God and His Word that you knew when you heard those words. Because I was thinking, I could have flipped off on Anne if she would have said that to me in that moment.

Or I could have gone where you went. It could have been a turning of hardness or a softness. So it's beautiful. There's something laid there. Obviously, the foundation in your life, but also in your marriage, that that was a moment of communion with God rather than another psalm, you know?

Yeah. And to be honest, I think we see this all the time, is that we as followers of Christ, we have the choice to either lean into bitterness or to lean into Jesus. If we don't keep turning to God in our pain and in our trials, we will get bitter. Because life's just hard.

And it's never guaranteed to be easy this side of heaven. And I think that's one thing that we help each other with in our marriage. And I don't always respond so graciously.

You know, sometimes I'm just like, stop it! But it's one thing that we can do for each other in a marriage is to call each other back to that tenderness and to not push one another. Because we can goad our spouses, right, to more bitterness and say like, yeah, you deserve better.

We should have more. The truth is that if we lean into Christ instead of bitterness, we're going to find that life and that hope and that peace that we really want, even if our external life is still really hard. Right. And you know this, there's a pretty good percentage of marriages that don't make it. Right. When they go through a job loss, miscarriages, you had three, I think, right? Yep, three.

They don't make it. And we all sit here and we're like, we know bitter people who went through the same trial you went through, and they're bitter. You go through it, and we're hearing this better story. Did you ever think you'd write on this topic? Because you have a background of writing. You had already written one book.

Right. Yeah, still waiting. So there you were, waiting again.

My first one, still waiting. It's like, don't write on this stuff. Oh, the Lord. I heard a pastor once say, I never pray for patience because then the Lord actually teaches me how to be patient. And even the format of this book is unique.

Yeah, it is. I never guessed that we would be telling the side of our story in the way that we have. At the same time, the Lord made it pretty clear that this was what I needed to write about, in part because we've seen lots of other people with church hurt, lots of other people with hurt in all sorts of different areas of life.

And you need someone to write about it honestly in a way that's not dishonoring, but can hopefully guide people through that hurt. And yeah, I intentionally wanted to set this up as a devotional. So it's broken into 40 days with eight different sections on biblical men and women who walked their own roads of struggle, trial, pain, distinctly unpeaceful situations. How did God meet these biblical saints? How did he meet Moses?

How did he meet Sarah, the wife of Abraham? How did he meet Paul in the New Testament and encourage these people in their difficult trials with God's peace? Old Testament, pre-Christ, we still see God meeting his people with peace. New Testament, once Christ has come, we still see God meeting his people with peace. He is the same God and the Lord who cared for each of these men and women, who met Hannah in the midst of her infertility, who met Mary Magdalene in the midst of her radical identity change after coming out of bondage. This is the same God who wants to meet us in our struggles and our hurts and encounter us with his peace.

So that's my hope is that as we get into the Word and we look at biblical men and women and see God's presence with them, we'll realize that this is the same God who still meets with us. You're listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Anne and Michael Swindell on Family Life Today. Do you want to get more advice and tips like you heard in today's conversation?

I know that I do. So if you're like me and you do right now, when you give any amount this week, we're going to send you a copy of Anne Swindell's book called The Path to Peace. We're going to send you a copy as our thanks when you partner financially this week with Family Life. Your partnership makes more conversations like the one you heard today get into more and more homes, which is just a fantastic thing. So if you're feeling like God is calling you to partner with us with a donation, you can go online to familylifetoday.com or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329.

And that could be a one time gift or a recurring monthly gift. Again, the number is 800 F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. And maybe you too feel like the Swindells as if the world is against you or worse, like what they experienced, like other Christians are against them. Well, tomorrow, Dave and Anne are joined again by Anne and Mike Swindell, where they remain firm in their faith despite the difficulty. That's coming up tomorrow. We hope you'll join us. On behalf of Dave and Anne Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-03 07:21:33 / 2023-04-03 07:32:33 / 11

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