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The Way of Abundance: A 60-Day Journey Into a Deeply Meaningful Life

The Way of Abundance: A 60-Day Journey Into a Deeply Meaningful Life

by Ann Voskamp


Learn More | Meet Ann Voskamp

Introduction

Men of the breaking hearts had a quality about them not known to or understood by common men. They habitually spoke with spiritual authority. They had been in the Presence of God and they reported what they saw there.

    A. W. TOZER, THE PURSUIT OF GOD
There are a million stars, a trillion, flung across the summer sky, a million more than any of us can count.

The night sky can seem close over the farm.

There are nights over our fields that it feels like we could grab the Big Dipper itself and ladle up light. There are nights that can feel bathed in abundant light.

When the Perseid meteor shower falls in mid-August, we spread blankets out by the edge of the stilled and drowsing wheat fields and watch for streaming fireballs of light to fall into our waiting hope. Some nights we just sit at the edge of the farm porch, sit at the edge of all the things that have gone wrong in a day, and watch the courage of stars, blazing brave in the dark.

Sitting together under a blanket of stars, one of the kids muttered it, “What are stars made of? Where does all that light come from?”

I tried to remember what I’d read in one of my old science textbooks, tried to explain it slowly so they’d listen, remember, what stars really are.

“Stars are made from explosions and collisions of elements. Stars are made from a breaking at their center. Which allows for a process called nuclear fusion, a process that releases an enormous amount of energy, of light.”

I murmur it again, because how have I never seen the stars quite like that? Stars are made from a continuous breaking. And it’s the gravitational friction of this breaking that makes them bright.

Breaking—then blazing.

This is always the abundant way of the universe.

Brokenness multiplies into abundance. This seems impossible—unlikely. And this is the unfailing way of God. Multiplication happens out of brokenness. And the sum is abundant life.

Stars are the scars of the sky—made into the light of the world.

What would happen if the scars you carry are what God uses to carry Christ to a scarred and broken world?

Weak is the real strong.

Brokenness is the real abundance.

Breaking—then blazing.

Dying—then rising.

Trust the abundant ways of the universe, the ways of Almighty God.

Scars are but stars that let His light burn through the night. Stars and scars are signs that point The Way.

I never told the kids that the brightest stars are known as supernovas. That when a star dies, it sends out a massive shock wave, that the death of the star is known as a supernova explosion, appearing in the night sky many times brighter than the surrounding stars.

Die to pride, die to self, die to agendas, die to comfort, die to ease—and your life explodes with abundant life. Unexpectedly, the secret to abundance is not about self—but about dying to self.

For the holy sake of our blessed sanity, we’ve got to go lose ourselves so we can find ourselves. Breaking—then blazing.

That’s what this book is about.

These pages are about the wildly abundant life found in wildly unexpected places. These pages are about taking the dare to journey into a deeply meaningful life. The abundant life isn’t found in what’s touted as the good life bought on credit; it’s found in the upside-down life, in broken places, with broken people, being most near the broken heart of Christ. Abundance is found in the loaves being broken and given, in the seed being broken open to new life, in the stars breaking—then blazing . . . in all the bits of our broken hearts. Abundance isn’t about having as much as you want—abundance is about having as much of God as you want.

The starry night sky can feel like heaven has drawn near over our farm fields, over our upturned, seeking faces.

Out of the greatest brokenness, you can most greatly experience God’s nearness.

It’s okay. It’s really okay. There are nights I step out on the porch, look up, and . . . just exhale.

Do not ever be afraid of broken things—this is the beginning of abundant things.

The stars bear witness.

Maybe all fear of loss, of not enough, of scarcity, of lack of abundance is but the notion that God’s love ends. But when does His love ever end?

The stars go on forever, infinitely, over the farm.

When you step into our house from the farm’s front porch, you can see it hanging over our old barn beam table, a canvas of lit and colored squares that suggest Christ hanging on the cross. They call Him that—the Bright Morning Star. His hands reach out in surrendered givenness. Christ takes the form of meaningfulness: cruciform.

There’s a journey toward deep meaningfulness that beckons, a way of seeing, a way of stars, of the Bright Morning Star, that changes everything, and the soul can’t help but ask:

Where did all this light come from?

Part One

How Can the Brokenhearted Keep Going?

Devotion 1

Decisive Givenness

Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

    EPHESIANS 5:2

When I saw the billboard plastered on a wall somewhere in the city, it brought me up short. I stepped back to take it in, stood there in front of it like a fool farm hick.

Blazoned across the three panels like a wake-up call: “Why do you get out of bed in the morning?” And three images: some daredevil plunges off his surfboard—Fear of Failure. An astronaut latches himself in for launch—The Need to Succeed. Some guy holds a curling cat—The Love of Your Life.

So why in the world do you get out of bed in the morning? I’m pretty sure I don’t bother getting out of bed for any purring feline, and no, I don’t have any rocket ship or this hankering to go launching off into the cosmos. And, quite frankly, I’ve never had the guts to take on any looming wave while trying to balance on a death-defying sliver of wobbling fiberglass.

But standing there before the billboard and its haunting question and it comes as a beat under my feet, a rhythm down the street, the question begging an answer. I want to accost the steady stream of blank-faced commuters rushing past me and ask them if they know. I want to ask old men on park benches and kids on park swings and mamas at sinks with young ones slung up on tired hips, and the brave who get out of bed all alone and face their own uphill road: Why—why, you with your broken heart, why do you bother to keep getting out of bed?

Do you find your feet because you’re driven by a relentless fear of failure, or beaten down by the need to succeed? Or do you hit the floor for the love of a ball of fur?

Because this is what I know: Nothing is more necessary than finding God and falling in love and deeper into Him. Love decides. Love decides everything. What you are in love with decides what you live for. What you are in love with decides what you get out of bed for.

Fall in love with His hands that shaped your heart, that cup your face, that trace your scars, that caress you with grace. Fall in love with His face in a thousand faces, in the baby who meets you at the crib rail, and the teenager who doesn’t want to budge, and that man who never fails to put feet to the floor and find his Levi jeans and head out the back door to brave the hardworking world for love.

Fall in love with the One who fills your lungs with this breath and all these people and this sky and all this light, all this glorious light.

You have to fall in love because this will get you up and keep you going every day. Because love decides. And love isn’t about agreeing with someone; it’s about sacrificing for someone. Love is givenness. Love is surrender. Love is living broken and given like bread.

Love decides everything, which is another way of saying, sacrifice is the essence of everything. Fall in love, fall into sacrifice, and you will always rise. Go fall in love with grace and mercy and the only One who has ever loved you to death—and back to the realest, abundant life. Because the world is begging us all to get out of bed and live given, get out of bed and sacrifice for someone hurting, for someone different, for someone forgotten or marginalized, to hold the hand of someone who doesn’t look like us, to lean in and listen to someone angry and grieving and doubting the likes of us, to give a bit of ourselves to those who feel like they aren’t given much real space at the table.

Read the headlines, read your news feed, and then defy the dark and go fall in love with kids raised in different neighborhoods than yours. Fall in love with God in the faces that tell stories different than yours; fall in love with people who think and live and walk in circles far different than yours. Sacrifice for someone—so your sanity, your fulfillment, your abundant joy, isn’t sacrificed.

Sacrifice will always leave you the most satisfied. Fall in love, stay in love, stay sacrificing, and you live the most satisfied. What you are in love with in your life decides everything about your life. Love decides everything.

The sun can rise, and we all could rise, falling around each other, falling all around, healing, rising.

FOR REFLECTION

  • How is God now asking you to see your brokenness today?
  • What would abundance look like in your life today?

Devotion 2

In Brokenness, Abundant Light

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

    1 PETER 2:24

Sometimes you can feel the crush of it on your brittle rib cage. Great grief isn’t made to fit inside your body. It’s why your heart breaks. If you haven’t felt this yet, it is likely, by His severe and surgical mercy, that someday you will.

There’s absolutely no tidy pattern as to who gets pain and who gets peace. How had I not seen that the brokenness of this world is so all-encompassing that it encompasses all of us?

The wheat stands behind the orchard, turning itself into pure gold.

This is the deal we all get: guaranteed suffering. It is coming, unstoppable, like time.

There are graves coming, there is dark coming, there is heartbreak coming. We are not in control, and we never were. One moment you’re picking up balls of crusty, dirty socks strewn across the bedroom floor, and the next moment you’re picking up the pieces of your shattered life.

How do you live with a broken heart?

All the wheat looks like an onyx sea. The trees at the edge of the field reach up like a lyric scratched across the sky. It’s like that line of Hugo’s from Les Misérables: “There is a spectacle grander than the sea, and that is the sky; there is a spectacle grander than the sky, and it is the interior of the soul.” How does the interior of your soul live with broken things, through broken things?

Jesus died crying.

Jesus died of a broken heart. Those words were still warm on His cracked lips: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The movement of a life of faith is always toward answering that singular question. Read the headlines. Read the obituaries. Read people’s eyes. Isn’t the essence of the Christian life to answer that one, nail-sharp question: God, why in this busted-up world have You abandoned me?

I can see that question hanging over our farm table, up in the gable, from that framed canvas of a thousand little broken squares of color. In the semiabstract painting, there’s no tidy pattern, just light and dark bleeding into this subtle suggestion of Jesus hanging on the cross. He’s hoarse with the begging, for Himself, for us: “God, why have You abandoned me?” And He surfaces in the patches of color, the broken brushstrokes, the silhouette of Him visible in the chaos—Christ entering all this chaos.

There is the truth: Blessed—lucky— are those who cry. Blessed are those who are sad, who mourn, who feel the loss of what they love—because they will be held by the One who loves them. There is a strange and aching happiness only the hurting know—for they shall be held.

And, by God, we’re the hurting beggars begging: Be close to the brokenhearted. Save the crushed in spirit. Somehow make suffering turn this evil against itself, so that a greater life rises from the dark. God, somehow.

I was eighteen, with scars across my wrists, when I heard a pastor tell a whole congregation that he had once “lived next to a loony bin.” I’d looked at the floor when everyone laughed. They didn’t know how I had left my only mama behind the locked doors of psychiatric wards more than a few times. When they laughed, I felt the blood drain away from my face, and I’d wanted to stand up and howl, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”

I’d wanted to stand up and beg: When the church isn’t for the suffering and broken, then the church isn’t for Christ. Because Jesus, with His pierced side, is always on the side of the broken. Jesus always moves into places moved with grief. Jesus always seeks out where the suffering is, and that’s where Jesus stays. The wound in His side proves that Jesus is always on the side of the suffering, the wounded, the busted, the broken.

I believed this then and believe it now and I’d say I know it to be true—but there is more than believing; there is living what you believe. Do I really?

What I wanted that Sunday when I was eighteen, sitting in a church of laughter mocking the hurting, was for all the broken to say it together, as one body, to say it for the hurting and broken and to say it to each other, because there is not even one of us who hasn’t lost something, who doesn’t fear something, who doesn’t ache with some unspoken pain. I wanted us to say it to each other until it is the bond of a promise we cannot break:

The body of Christ doesn’t offer you some clichés, but something to cling to—right here in our own scarred hands.

His body doesn’t offer some platitudes, but some place for your pain—right here in our own offered time.

His body doesn’t offer some excuses, but we’ll be an example—right here in our bending down and washing your wounds.

And we are His and He is ours, so we are each other’s, and we will never turn away.

But instead I’d heard preached what Jesus never had—some pseudo-good news that if you just pray well, sing well, worship well, live well, and give lots, well, you get to take home a mind and body that are well. That’s not how the complex beauty of life breaks open.

The real Jesus turns to our questions of why—why this brokenness,why this darkness?—and says, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here.” “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”

There’s brokenness that’s not about blame. There’s brokenness that makes a canvas for God’s light to be lavishly splashed across the darkness. There’s brokenness that carves windows straight into our souls.

Brokenness cracks open a soul so the power of God can crack the darkness in the world.

FOR REFLECTION

  • How might God be working redemptively through the brokenness in your life?
  • Where are you seeing His abundant light right now?

Devotion 3

Winging toward Abundance

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

    1 JOHN 4:7–8

I once held a bird in my hand.

No one else could see its brave heart, but I felt it. I felt its heart thumping hard and afraid and beating bravely still.

It happens—there are ways to look fine on the outside . . . and no one knows what you’ve really survived.

But the truth is? You didn’t just survive, so let’s toss that myth out right at the outset.

The way you keep walking? You may be wounded. You may be hurting. You may be limping. You may feel alone and overwhelmed and an unspoken broken—but you’re no victim.

You’re not just a survivor. You’re a thriver.

You may bleed—but you rise.

Yeah, it may not feel like it—but you are seen . . . how you just keep keeping your chin up and limping brave through the hurt and how you keep taking one step out of bed and another step through the door—and how you keep scaling mountains by relentlessly taking steps forward.

But I wanted you to know your wounds are seen and you are going to be okay—it is all going to be okay.

Not that you badge-flash your scars or anything.

Or try to hide them, ashamed.

It’s just sometimes there’s this passing flicker in your eyes, old pain shooting white right through.

But mostly, quietly, the scars just become you—become who you are and become you . . . make you more beautiful—they just become the way your skin pulls mottled and raised over your soul and this is how you fit most beautifully.

How you can look healed and thickened and still feel so stretched paper-thin? Yeah, I know.

If someone brushed by you just a certain way? You’d be blue, tender and sore all over again, or just spill without a sound.

Inside, the warrior is small.

The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

I just wanted to reach out and touch, glance at your wounds. You don’t have to say anything. Explain anything, excuse anything. I just wanted to touch them, acknowledge them. Acknowledge you. Bless them, you, without even a sound—only eyes that make you feel seen . . . deeply known.

I just wanted to whisper your way: Wounded warriors win. There is no remission of sins or the crossing of finish lines without things getting bloody.

You are so brave to keep facing the light. To keep walking toward Home.

The scarred Savior will know you’re His by your own scars.

And when He cups your face, that moment when His scars touch your skin? You’ll be wholly healed.

Hang on. Press in. Look up.

Can I just whisper? I know you must feel like people, the church, have wanted you to go away. Sweep your scars under the proverbial rug. Erase you, avoid you, silence you.

Because it’s too uncomfortable for us, the neighbors, the church, the body, to face our own culpability in scars. Face our own fallen disfigurement. Pollyanna wasn’t the only one who wore rose-colored glasses. Few like to admit that we come from a long line of Roman soldiers who have crucified our own.

I know—and I’m sorry. When it comes to the bloodied and wounded, we suddenly all become like turtles, lose our thin, bare necks and shirk back into our see-nothing shells. Who sticks out their necks for the broken and wounded? Only the One who stretched out His arms infinitely wide and had them nailed there so you would never doubt that His love was going anywhere.

Sometimes the church doesn’t want to know details or listen to wounds, weep, or wade into the bloody mess. Christ is the truth, but too many of His people run from the truth.

Yet if Christ is the truth, then where there isn’t truth, there isn’t Christ. Why ever be afraid of the truth? If we believe in the sovereign grace of God, the redemptive restoration of God, then we need never fear the broken things.

And maybe—maybe our deafening silence sometimes in the body, in the church, is just this: Truth necessitates confrontation—and a whole lot of us are more chicken than Christian. Sometimes we’d rather save our own skin than the skin of the bruised and battered and beaten. We can be more in love with self-preservation than with Savior-glorification.

Sometimes as communities, churches, families—we’d rather make pain invisible than say injustice is intolerable. So the injustice continues.

So we pretend you, the wounded and brokenhearted, don’t exist, so we can pretend the sin that caused this wound doesn’t exist—because ultimately, our actions prove it: we don’t really think the Wounded Healer exists.

We act like we forget that God can raise up phoenixes from ashes—and that this is His business, this is what He does. That which we refuse to thank Christ for, we refuse to believe Christ can redeem.

Wounded one, brokenhearted thriver—you gotta believe there’s a whole lot of us who believe. A whole lot of us are getting to our feet and sticking out our necks because we long to be like Christ who stretched out His arms, we long to be like Christ, cruciform—and we want you to know: we want you. You, not masked . . . you, not prettified, but you with your messy scars and your tender blue places and all that just-below-the-skin hurt.

Because when we ignore suffering, we ignore the suffering Savior.

We need you. We need the wounded, we need the limping, we need the hurting, we need the broken and messy—you are us. We need to cup your tears, to water hard and crusted places, or there’s no growth in the kingdom of God.

We need your raw story or we lose any hope of the redemptive Story. We need to hold your broken heart or we have no heart.

Can I just say: I am sorry. I am sorry for how alone you have felt. How abandoned, how ignored. We need you. It is the wounded ones who make us heal. And it is the hurting ones who make us honest; it’s the broken ones who put us back together again.

And it is the scarred ones who make the body of Christ sensitive.

Once, it’s true, we found a trapped and wounded bird. And when we simply cupped it close and listened to its heart—we saw the way of abundance with our own eyes. We saw how that bird turned toward the light and flew.

FOR REFLECTION

  • Where might you see brokenhearted suffering around you today that God is calling you not to ignore?
  • How might lack of forgiveness be keeping you from living into abundance today?

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