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Our Path to Peace: Ann & Michael Swindell

with Ann & Michael Swindell | April 3, 2023
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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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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.

Our Path to Peace: Ann & Michael Swindell

With Ann & Michael Swindell
|
April 03, 2023
| Download Transcript PDF

Ann S: 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. [Laughter] And the only one who can is apparently refusing to change the life that I have right now.” We signed up to be those that carry our crosses and follow Jesus.

Michael: That’s right

Ann S: 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.

Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.

Dave:  And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.

Ann:  This is FamilyLife Today!

Ann: So, we usually start the program with you asking me some question, but today-

Dave: I know I usually come up with something that sort of surprises you.

Ann: I’m going to ask you a question today.

Dave: No, no, no. no, no. It’s not in the script.

Ann: Here goes. [Laughter] So which period of our marriage have you had the most sleepless nights?

Dave: Wow. What do you think? [Laughter]

Michael: Wow.I forgot the question.

Dave: I, uh, I think you might be surprised.

Ann: Okay.

Dave: It’s right now.

Ann: Really?

Dave: Yeah, I never thought that would happen, but yeah, I wake up a lot.

Ann: About?

Dave: Anxious about the future, retirement--

Ann: Ahhh

Dave: You know I, you know, yeah, I don’t know. It’s like that kind of stuff.

Ann: You should wake me up.

Dave: No

Ann: I would pray for you and help you. [Laughter]

Dave: Well then you wouldn’t go to sleep. You’d be like, “Oh, we don’t have that much money?” [Laughter] You don’t even care you’re just, “Dave’s got it.” No, I mean honestly, I think back over our years, you know 42 years of marriage, when the kids were little, lot of sleepless nights because they were waking up and peeing in the bed [Laughter] and all that stuff. And then when they hit teen years, but no seriously. I need to experience God’s peace in the middle of the night.

Ann: It’s funny because my, the times that I wake up are usually about things that are going on relationally.

Ann S: mmm hmm

Ann: You know I’m struggling, I'm wondering about the kids, I’m worrying about our marriage, like how are we doing? But I--

Dave: Yes, I’m not worried about any of that stuff. [Laughter]

Ann: Why are we talking about this?

Dave: Well, we need a path to peace. You know what?

Ann: Yes

Dave: [Laughter] I’m holding a book right here called The Path to Peace and the author Ann 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 FamilyLife Today.

Michael: It’s great to be here.

Dave: Have you–you’ve, you’ve never done this together?

Ann S: No, this is brand new for us, but we’re pretty excited about it. [Laughter]

Michael: –We’re excited.

Dave: Yes. As I watched you online and stuff, I’ve never seen you, Michael. I’ve only seen Ann [Laughter] on all these podcasts.

Michael: She finally brought me out of the shadows. [Laughter]

Ann: 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?

Ann S: Sixteen and a half years

Michael: –Sixteen years and a half, yeah, it will be seventeen this–

Ann: And you have two kids that are how old?

Ann S: Nine and five.

Ann: You’ve lived enough life that you’ve experienced being overwhelmed.

Ann S: Absolutely.

Michael: Absolutely. Yes.

Dave: You’ve got a pretty overwhelming journey you’ve been on help our listeners understand because we’re talking about peace.

Ann S: Right.

Dave: While we’re just talking about the lack of peace, you’ve experienced--

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

Michael: Sure

Ann S: Michael is 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?

Michael: Yes, I would say. You talked about not sleeping well because of relational conflict or anxiety and yes, that was definitely a season where you’re waking up and just crying out to the Lord, you know and weeping and just saying, “Lord, what just happened? Like, how did we get to this place?”

Dave: And it sounds like, and again maybe you don’t want to get into details, but it sounds like it was unjust. If you told the truth--

Michael: Yes

Dave: –whatever that means

Michael: –I would say so--

Ann S: Yes

Michael: I would say so--

Dave: So, you’ve got that part of it as well, it’s not just I lost my job but--

Ann: This is wrong.

Ann S: Right

Michael: And yes, it was the first time for me that I felt like, “Wow. That was really wrong.”

Ann S: mmm hmmm

Michael: and like I had no deserving of what just happened. And so, you don’t realize how much God speaks about justice and vindication

Ann S: –mmm hmm

Michael: –of the righteous [Laughter]

Ann: –yes

Michael: –until you start reading the Psalms again and you go, “Wait a minute. I can kind of feel this now.”

Dave: –I can relate to this.

Ann: –yeah

Michael: –David in Proverbs, there’s a lot about the just and the righteous

Ann S: mmm hmm

Michael: -in Proverbs so

Ann: –Ann, did you feel that as a wife?

Ann S: Absolutely.

Ann: –were you so mad?

Ann S: 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. What happened to him in that job loss was yes, 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 [Laughter] because it, you know, when you’re a pastor you’re not just losing your job, you’re losing your community.

Michael: Right. Your family really.

Dave: Yes

Ann S: 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 our community really. We started to learn that most of the people that we had considered friends either wanted to be our friends because like of proximity to power or just because we were providing them with some sort of, I don’t know, spiritual support, that once we weren’t in that role anymore our friendship wasn’t valuable to them. So, it was a lot of different things that were really being stripped away very rapidly as far as financially 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: Yes, it was very painful.

Dave: Michael, what did that look like, what did depression look like?

Michael: Yes, I mean I never, I`ve never weeped so much in my life, you know there was a moment, probably two days after where I came home to an empty house and I just groans. You know, I didn’t even have words, I’ve never, I’ve never wept like that. It was just a weeping and I remember um the prayer that came out, “God, not your church, not your church Lord--

Ann: Yes.

Michael: –like in the world maybe, but not your church Lord.”

Dave: People you don’t expect--

Michael: People you never expected. It happened so fast and so quick and

Ann S: Mmm hmm

Michael: It was 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 Ann and I were doing a lot of the blocking and tackling, we were, we were [Laugher] --

Dave: Hey, did you just use a football reference? [Laugher]

Michael: I did. I did for you.

Dave: You know, that never happens here at FamilyLife Today [Laughter] you know but then some people come in and they want to talk about football.

Ann: –Look how excited he just got.

Ann S: –I know, oh man--

Michael: 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-

Ann S: Yes.

Michael: a lot of those, a lot of the time to make it through.

Ann S: Mmm hmm

Michael: Ann graciously took the kids for a couple hours each day when I was crying out to the Lord and--

Ann: How old were your kids at that point?

Ann S: Three and seven

Dave: So you’ve got-

Ann S: –or six

Dave: –that

Ann S: –yeah

Dave: –I mean it’s a full time

Ann S: –oh man

Dave: –never ending job

Ann: –that’s a busy stage [Laughter]

Dave: –yeah

Ann S: –and our son at the time, no he was two, that’s what it was he was two because he had some

Michael: –allergies

Ann S: –really intensive GI allergies, so we were dealing with a lot of food and sensitivity issues. Then our daughter, who she just didn’t understand, “Why can’t we go back to church? These are all my friends-

Dave: –Oh

Ann S: –This is my whole life.” She didn’t understand. “Why would the other pastors do this? 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 so

Ann: You don’t want to scar her for the future-

Michael: That’s right.

Ann: –in church and what she believes.

Ann S: Exactly.

Michael: –that’s right.

Ann S: And we are diehard church people. You know people have asked us a lot, “Well didn’t that just make you want to leave the church?” It’s like, “No.”

Michael: No.

Ann S: It made us want to pour back into the bride of Christ. But we had to get healed up first. [Laughter]

Dave: So what’d that look like? How, how did that go?

Ann S: It took awhile. [Laughter]

Dave: –Yes.

Ann S: –it took awhile

Dave: –of course

Ann S: –yes

Dave: –Michael, how long?

Ann S: –Oh, it’s like sometimes we wonder

Michael: –it’s still there [Laughter]

Ann S: –were we, are we healed yet Lord?

Michael: It’s still there.

Dave: How many years ago was that?

Ann S: Three and a half.

Dave: –three and a half

Ann S: Yes.

Ann: –so that’s not that long-

Michael: –not that long, it’s still fresh, no

Ann S: No. I mean we both were in counseling. We did Christian counseling separately and together. We did a ton of just praying together, praying with friends, reading the Word.

Dave: Did it impact your marriage? Positive? Negative?

Michael: Oh, yes. I think more positive.

Ann S: Absolutely

Michael: 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.”

Ann S: mmm hmm

Ann: Wow

Dave: Wow

Michael: And to have your spouse say that when you are spiraling down is so unbelievable.

Ann S: mmm hmm

Michael: It’s such–I mean there’s times you just can’t think clearly and Ann from 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 a kind of phrase we use. We really were Team Swindell in that season.

Ann S: mmm hmm

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

Ann S: Yes

Michael: and that’s a gift.

Ann S: I realized that 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 he was, it’s not that he was depressed and non-functional, but there were a lot of days where he was barely functional, just really struggling to do anything of any value. It may be unloading the dishes or something. Um [Laughter] 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 was to, “I need you to suck it up and pull it together and we’ve got to move on.” Like, 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.

If I refuse to take this opportunity that the Lord has given 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, “Are we going to pay these bills God? How’s 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.

Ann: This really says a lot about your foundation being on the Rock of Jesus.

Ann S: Amen

Michael: Amen

Ann: Because Ann, like it would have been so, as a young mom, a mom of these young kids

Ann S: mmm hmm

Ann: -as you’re stressing over the bills and he’s not really, Michael you’re not able at that point

Michael: –right

Ann: –to really kick in everything

Michael: –right

Ann: –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. [Laughter] We need that total amazing grace from our spouse don’t we?

Michael: You bet.

Ann: Absolutely. And I think back too, like Michael has really shown that to me in different seasons. One of the things that I write about in this book The Path to Peace

that happened a couple of years before Michael was fired, is we went through a season of having multiple miscarriages between our kids.

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 remember looking back and I’m like, “How did you put up with me?” You know not because it wasn’t right for me to grieve and be sad. Michael was grieving in his own way, but I think we as women experience loss and um just the desire for more 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. 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.

Dave: I mean what would you say to the listener that’s right now in a storm, in-

Ann: –in a season?

Dave: –could be in a job loss, could be miscarriage, could be anything. You’ve said it already I think, but it’s almost like what would you say to this spouse who’s watching their husband or watching their wife really struggle?

Ann S: mmm

Dave: What did you do for one another, that as you look back is like, “Oh that’s what, that’s what I needed.

Ann: So helpful

Dave: –obviously grace,

Michael: –mmm hmm

Dave: –words of life to you Michael, we’ve already-

Ann S: –yes

Dave: -heard that but is there anything that sticks out like, you know, it's almost like you could counsel a couple right now, “We’re there. Say something to us. Help us.” You know?

Michael: Yeah, I would say God is enough. He is always enough.

Ann S: Yes.

Michael: 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.

Ann S: Mmm hmm

Michael: I think we think, 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 that He didn’t in a prior season. He’s always been enough-

Ann S: He is.

Michael: -and His Spirit, He will overwhelm you at times that you need it, and He will support you when you need it. If you just keep seeking Him, and by that I mean get in God’s Word, pray, pray with your spouse.

Ann S: Yes.

Michael: it sounds so basic-

Dave: Yes, yes.

Michael: -but you need those even more in the difficult seasons not less. There’s not like, “Do this in the hard season.” Do those things more in this season.

Ann: Did you ever feel like, “God, what are you doing?” Were you mad at God in a way, not understanding?

Ann S: Oh so upset. [Laughter] The introduction to 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. 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 like breakthrough, you know. I just remember thinking, “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 prodigal kids that were off doing crazy things, you know and spending our money

Ann: Why do the wicked flourish?

Ann S: Exactly, you know, and I just came to this point where you know–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.”

Dave: hmm

Ann S: “This is not what I want.” And I can’t change it [Laughter] 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. [Laughter] Michael was next to me and we’re both just so deflated, but I remember him looking at me and tenderly but firmly saying, “Ann what did you think we signed up for?” And I just was like, “Uh, 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 that carry our crosses and follow Jesus.

Michael: That’s right

Ann S: 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 yes, I’ve been :real mad [Laughter] 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. [Laughter] 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 [Laughter] 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, that has fed us with the peace of Jesus until all the new circumstances

Dave: –Yes,

Ann S: –that we’re walking in.

Dave: –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, “Ah, just a nice comfort.” [Laughter] You know you start to think God’s peace is not going to be in the middle of this valley. Because I was thinking-

Ann: –the storm

Dave: -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.

Ann S: Right, right

Dave: But there’s a depth of I’m guessing the relationship with God and His Word that you knew when you heard those words, because I was thinking I could have flipped off on Ann if she would have said that to me in the moment.

Ann S: Right

Michael: right

Dave: Or I could have gone where you went.

Ann S: Yes.

Dave: It could have been a turning of hardness or a softness. So it’s beautiful.  There’s something beautiful 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.

Ann S: Yes and to be honest I think we see this all the time. 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 sometimes I’m just like, “Stop it!” But it’s one thing that we can do for one another in a marriage is to call each other back to that tenderness and to not push one another, because we can goad with our spouses right to more bitterness, right? Like, “Yes, 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.

Dave: And you know this, there’s a pretty good percentage of marriages that don’t make it-

Ann S: Right

 

Dave: -when they go through a job loss, miscarriages, you had three I think, right?

Ann S: Yes, three.

Dave: They don’t make it because, and we all sit here we know of bitter people who went through the same trial that you went through and they’re bitter. You go through it and we’re hearing this better story.

Ann S: Mmm hmm

Ann: Did you ever think you’d write [Laughter] on this topic? Because you have a background of writing, you’d already written one book.

Ann S: Right, right.

Dave: Yes, Still Waiting and there you were waiting again. [Laughter]

Ann S: My first book Still Waiting.

Dave: You know it’s like don’t write on this stuff.

Ann S: I know I heard a pastor once say, “I never pray for patience because then the Lord actually teaches me patience.”

Ann: And even the format of this book is unique.

 

Ann S: Yes it is. I never guessed that we would be like telling this side of our story in the way um, that we have. At the same time, the Lord made it pretty clear 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 areas of life - and you need someone to write about it honestly in a way that’s not dishonoring but that can hopefully guide people through that hurt. I intentionally wanted to set this up as a devotional. It’s broken into forty 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?

You know 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’s 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 that wants to meet us in our struggles, in 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 the biblical men and women and see God’s presence with them we’ll realize this is the same God who still meets with us.

Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Ann and Michael Swindell on FamilyLife Today. Do you want to get more advice and tips like you heard in today’s conversation? I know that I do. 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 Ann 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 FamilyLife. Your partnership makes more conversations like the one you heard today get into more and more homes. Which is just a fantastic thing. 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. Now 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.

Now 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 Ann are joined again by Ann and Michael Swindell where they remain firm in their faith despite the difficulty. That’s coming up tomorrow. We hope you’ll join us.

Shelby: On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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Episodes in this Series

FamilyLife Today
Unshakable Peace: Ann & Michael Swindell
with Ann & Michael Swindell April 4, 2023
Where do you find peace if your situation doesn't change? Michael and Ann Swindell talk about unshakable peace smack in the middle of stress and fear.
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