Can I Make It Through the Hard Days? With Ann Voskamp [Episode 192]

Way Through Hard Days Ann Voskamp

What if it’s not the hard roads that slay us? But rather, it’s the unmet expectations of what we thought the road would be that actually takes us down? Well, if you’re facing obstacle after obstacle, or if you’re smack dab in the middle of your own impossible, then today’s guest will give you the fresh perspective you need.

Best-selling author and my friend, Ann Voskamp, will help you discover that finding the way through is actually about finding a way of life. She’ll give you six habits to help you get through any hard day or season, and they’ll lead you to what your soul needs most.

This woman doesn’t really need an introduction, but I’ll still give you one because I love who she is and how God has been using her…

Ann Voskamp is the wife of a farmer, mama to seven, and the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Broken Way, The Greatest Gift, and the sixty-week New York Times bestseller One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, which, by the way, sold more than 1.5 million copies. She and her husband took a leap of faith to restore a 125-year-old stone church into The Village Table, a place where everyone has a seat and belongs.

Today, we’re talking about Ann’s latest book, WayMaker: Finding the Way to the Life You’ve Always Dreamed Of. Ann shares how she has made it through so many painful chapters of her life with incredible hope, and she’ll help you see that you can do it too.

Her road has not been easy, and within her struggles, she has found herself asking:

  • How can God be good if He has allowed such a terrible thing?
  • Is it something I’ve done to deserve this pain? Where have I gone wrong?
  • Can I see these hard things as gifts and give thanks for them?
  • If I don’t see God as trustworthy, can I really put my faith in Him?
  • Am I only trusting God when He gives me the outcome I expect or need?

If you have ever asked yourself these questions, then I pray this episode would bring you encouragement. Without answers to these questions, it can seem like there’s no hope at all. But there is hope, my friend, and that’s why I’m eager for you to hear what Ann has to say.

So, whether you’re having a hard day, a hard year, or a hard season of life, remember there is a way through it because Jesus is your waymaker. He’s the way the truth and the life (John 14:6), and it’s through Him that you can find the strength to make it through the hard days.

PS: If you’ve already listened to this episode, jot down Ann’s SACRED acronym below!

S.A.C.R.E.D. Acronym


[Listen to the podcast using the player above, or read the transcript below. Then check out the links below for more helpful resources.]

BONUS: A Few Peaceful Minutes With Ann Voskamp

This short, 9-minute episode includes additional clips from my conversation with Ann about how Jesus is your waymaker. It’s going to sound a little different than normal because it was put together like a devotional to give you a few minutes of peace and inspiration. So, as you listen to Ann’s beautiful words of wisdom, allow them to soak into your heart and remember … Jesus is the way through.

Listen to the BONUS episode with Ann here.

Related Resources

Books & Bible Studies by Jennifer Rothschild

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Links Mentioned in This Episode

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Episode Transcript

4:13 Podcast: Can I Make It Through the Hard Days? With Ann Voskamp [Episode 192]

Jennifer Rothschild: What if it's not the hard roads that slay us, but instead the unmet expectations of what we thought the road would be that takes us down. Well, if you're facing obstacle after obstacle on the way to your dreams, or if you're smack dab in the middle of your own impossible no-way situation, today's guest, best-selling author and my friend Ann Voskamp, is going to give you the fresh perspective that you need. You're going to discover that finding the way through is actually about finding a way of life. She's going to give you six habits that will help you get through any hard day or season, and they're going to lead you to what your soul needs most. So what in the world are we waiting for? Let's pour the coffee and get started.

K.C. Wright: Welcome to the 4:13 Podcast, where practical encouragement and biblical wisdom set you up, my friend, to live the "I Can" life, because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. Now, your host, Jennifer Rothschild.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, hello, our friends. K.C. and I are coming at you today from the podcast closet. But I will tell you, we need Ann Voskamp right here with us right now whispering in our ears with her calming voice.

K.C. Wright: We do.

Jennifer Rothschild: We have had nothing but technical issues.

K.C. Wright: Oh, my goodness. We've had a gremlin unleashed in the podcast studio booth.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes. And we are not that technically smart. So really, I wish you could have been here. You would have been laughing at us. But what got us through, coffee and prayer. That's what always gets us through. And also, we're counting on a really good editor making this thing sound good, so thank you, Mr. Editor. But we are drinking some coffee from one of you. One of our 4:13ers --

K.C. Wright: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- has given us a bag of coffee. So, Melissa, K.C.'s got the bag of beans right here. And I'm telling you, our studio smells so good. It tastes so good. What kind of coffee is it, K.C.?

K.C. Wright: It's called Casa Brasil.

Jennifer Rothschild: Oooo.

K.C. Wright: Grown in Brazil, roasted in Texas.

Jennifer Rothschild: That's what makes it good.

K.C. Wright: I love this. "In Brazil," it says, "a beverage is a ritual taken any time of day for any occasion. We created our dark roast blend to be smooth and inviting all day for any reason or no reason."

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay, y'all, seriously that sounds like medication. It's like a medication rather than a coffee, which kind of is the same thing sometimes. So anyway, thank you, Melissa. It really -- it tastes so good.

K.C. Wright: It's delicious.

Jennifer Rothschild: It is.

K.C. Wright: Down to the first -- last cup.

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, yeah. And I am sending those beans home with K.C. So we've had half the bag, but K.C. will be having the rest.

K.C. Wright: Woo-hoo.

Jennifer Rothschild: He's either going to drink it or use it as a maraca. Time will only tell.

Okay. Anyway, today we have got such a great episode because Ann Voskamp is with us. And really, she doesn't need any introduction, does she, K.C.?

K.C. Wright: No. She's amazing. She is phenomenal. Ann Voskamp is the wife of a farmer, mama to seven -- hello? -- and the author of the New York Times bestsellers "The Broken Way," "The Greatest Gift," and the 60-week New York Times best seller, "One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are," which, by the way, sold more than 1.5 million copies. She and her husband took a leap of faith to restore a 125-year-old stone church into The Village Table, a place where everyone has a seat and belongs.

And speaking of belonging, you belong right here. So pull up your chair and listen in as Jennifer and Ann talk about Ann's latest book, "Waymaker: Finding The Way To The Life You've Always Dreamed Of."

Jennifer Rothschild: Ann, you and I have known each other for a long time, so I have had the privilege of a front row seat in your life. And I know you've had some stuff. I mean -- I'm not even going to name all the stuff. But many of us know about your sister's death, that you actually saw that, and then, gosh, how it affected your mom, and she was in and out of psychiatric hospitals. And then a teenager, here you are a teenager and you dealt with panic attacks and agoraphobia. And you've even struggled with cutting. Oh, my goodness, sister.

So here you are on this side and -- and I didn't even name it all. But you've made it through all these painful chapters with incredible hope. So I'm going to ask you a couple of questions here. How'd you do it? How do you do it. And then even -- we want to know, like, how do we do it? How do we find a way through these hard times that we never expected?

Ann Voskamp: I think I wrote in "One Thousand Gifts," I was so formed and shaped by standing beside my mama and witnessing Aimee being killed. She was run over in our farmyard. The world seemed like a terrifying place to me where terrible, horrific things could happen at any moment. So I really struggled with fears in my teenage years, my 20s.

But picking up a pen and writing down the gifts, the things I was grateful for, I realized you can't simultaneously feel fear and gratitude at the same time. And when I wrote down the things I was grateful for, the gifts that the Lord was giving, I began to realize God is right here. He's present. I was counting all the ways he loved me, and his perfect love kicks fear to the curb. So it was a really formational experience for me, and one that I've continued over the last ten years.

When I sit down at my little chair with my prayer shawl every morning here in my office -- we call it the work room -- I always begin with worship, opening up my gratitude journal and writing down the things I'm grateful for, and then turning to His Word.

Jennifer Rothschild: So I'm wondering if that practice alone helped you in the processes. Because I would think -- I mean, a lot of people in your situations might make you question God. Or at the very least, question his goodness. So did that happen to you? And, if so, how did recording gratitude help with that?

Ann Voskamp: Yes. This is all tender. But ten-ish days after I submitted the manuscript, the story of Waymaker, my father was killed in the same farmyard, crushed under a farm tractor, the same way my sister was killed. And then only about maybe a week -- no, it was probably another ten days after that, I ended up in emergency, the E.R., with some kind of mysterious infection with a spiked fever. And they were doing MRIs and Cat scans, trying to figure out what was wrong. And that for me, Jennifer, laying there on the gurney, I just -- Lord, what have I done?

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, yeah.

Ann Voskamp: Where have I gone so wrong? That wasn't doubting him, it was, "Oh, Lord, have you cursed me?" Like, what have -- I mean, that feels a terrible thing to actually say because I know God is always for us. But there's my honest shadow of the Valley of Death wrestle. We need to take even the things that we don't think can possibly be a gift from the Lord, and can I get thanks for those things.

So some days for me, honestly, Jennifer, that looks like -- I open up my gratitude journal and write down gifts. I will choose that day to write down 25 things, beginning with "I am grateful for," and name 25 things that I don't want to give thanks for, the things that are actually really, really hard. And in the act of doing that, my heart opens before the Lord, "I am trusting that you are working all things together for good." If I don't count these hard things as gifts, I have miscounted the gifts.

It can be a sacrifice of Thanksgiving. It takes intentionality of the will to sacrifice and say, "Lord, I don't understand right now how to give thanks for this, but I am going to, like Daniel, purpose in my heart to give thanks for these things, because I trust that you are making these things into good gifts into my life, to give you glory, and for my ultimate good, and to produce real fruit in my own life." And I think -- because you know what, we're all -- if we haven't hit red seas, we are going to find ourselves between rocks and hard places, and we need to -- are we ready? Are we ready with the practices and the habits in our lives, a way of life that will take us through those red seas leaning into The Way himself?

Jennifer Rothschild: All right. So let's go to your book "Waymaker." So you're very candid in the book about the challenges in your marriage. And I love how you invite us into the story of inviting your precious -- or adopting your precious daughter.

Ann Voskamp: Oh, yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: So as I was perusing the book, I was thinking, you know, in many ways your book comes down to being, like, a story of exploring the psychology of attachment. Which I was a psych major, so I was, like, really pumped about this. Okay? And it deals with how our attachment, therefore, affects not just all our relationships, but it impacts the kind of life that we live, how fulfilling it is. So I would love it if you would unpack this idea of what is attachment, and why is attachment the foundation of the kind of lives that we're really looking for?

Ann Voskamp: Research is being done around attachment styles in our own marriages. Because ultimately what we still want as a child, we want as adults. We want a safe base. We want someone that we see as dependable and trustworthy and reliable. That's what a child needs, an attachment to a parent. But it's also what we need in a spouse, which is also what we need in our relationship with God. And I think lots of times we have deep trust issues with God and we don't see him as reliable and we don't see him as dependable. And if we don't genuinely experience God as trustworthy, can our hearts ever be genuinely attached to him as a safe Abba Father? And if we don't trust all the lines of our story to God, have we really put our faith and trust in God?

And if we look at Scripture, throughout Scripture marriage and adoption are these two metaphors that God himself uses to draw a picture of the way life with him is supposed to look like. Which is so powerful because he says he's adopted and grafted us into the family of God, he becomes our Abba Father. He pursues us. And it says that he actually weds the children of Israel to himself. So we have to -- do I then see myself as attached to God, that he is my safe base throughout the day, my cleft in the rock, my safe haven, the person I run to? That Jesus not only -- Jesus at the cross not only stood in my place and took my sin and gave me all his righteousness. So it's not just Jesus in my place, it's also Jesus is my person. Jesus is my person I run to for everything.

So for me, what that actually looks like isn't just picking up a pen and writing down my thanks for gifts. That is actually an act of trusting God with everything. That also means that I keep Scripture open. I have -- the Book of Psalms is open right at the coffee maker, so every time I go to grab a cup of coffee, I'm reading Scripture. I'm drinking Living Water.

We need to see that -- just like a child keeps returning to his mama or her papa all day long, like, "Am I safe?" you are my safe base, I'm attached to you, I can trust the world. How are we attached to God that you are my safe base? God's truth about who his character is and how he protects us, how he is for us, how he is going before us is my sense of reality because I keep returning to Him.

And I think -- you know, I talk about it in the book. Ultimately -- and we see it happening in culture all around us. So much of our addictions, the base of those addictions, something has gone wrong with our attachment. We are wrongly attached to something which creates an addiction. And if we want to cure ourselves of those wrong addictions, we need right attachments. Lots of times what people are looking for when they are addicted to certain things is they're craving attachment to someone who loves them. They're craving connection and they're finding it in the wrong places. And I think so much of our own addictions, our own sins, our own wrong turns in our lives is that we are turning towards something else to soothe and to comfort us instead of turning to God himself, attaching our hearts to him and finding our fulfillment and what we crave in deep communion with him.

Jennifer Rothschild: Wow. That connection, drawing the line between attachment and addiction, I think is very powerful. And I'm sure for somebody listening right now, it's very much of a light bulb moment. And I want to move further into that thought in just a moment, but I want to ask you a question, though, about something you said. As I'm listening, I'm seeing scenes from your story. Okay.

So if you are experiencing this incredible -- you have grown in your trust and your attachment toward God -- and I see these snapshots of your story. They can feel a little counterintuitive because often people consider -- well, they wouldn't say it, but the longer I live and the more I hear, the unspoken thing I hear is, My love for God is conditional. I will love Him and trust Him on the condition that he --

Ann Voskamp: Oh, yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- gives me the outcome I expect or need. And, therefore, we sabotage ourselves with that attitude, and we do not attach and we do not trust. So talk to me about that counterintuity.

Ann Voskamp: Oh, Jennifer, exactly.

Jennifer Rothschild: How does that work out in a person's life?

Ann Voskamp: I think lots of times we -- cerebrally we can say, "I love God." But you're right, our relationship with God is really -- and I want to be clear. My own relationship with God. There have been times and places where my own relationship with God has been transactional --

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes, that's the Word.

Ann Voskamp: -- where if I give you obedience, you should give me X, Y, or Z, a life that looks like this. And if you don't give me a life that looks like this, I will doubt your character, God; I will doubt that you're really for me; or, ultimately, you aren't real. You aren't.

Jennifer Rothschild: Right.

Ann Voskamp: Or you're impotent, you're completely powerless. I think we have this -- I write about it in "Waymaker" -- an EPS system as opposed to a GPS system. We have an expectational positioning system. I expect my life to look like this and I expect God to come through like this. And that expectational positioning system will turn us the wrong way over and over and over again.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes.

Ann Voskamp: And I ultimately believe life turns on the turn at every single -- there's all kinds of these junctures that happen through our day, but then there's also these life junctures where something happens and I have to determine my life -- the way I want my life to turn out is dependent on where I turn right now. Will I -- and we are -- I wrote about it in "Waymaker." Augustine talks about -- Augustine, Luther, Barth all talk about -- in Latin it's called the incurvatus in se. That is who we are as human beings. We have this tendency to curve, to turn inward to try to self-protect and take care of our self-preservation. We turn inward as opposed to turning toward God, which is counterintuitive. When we're feeling vulnerable, when we're feeling pain, our human in our brokenness, our default is to curve and to turn inward. I will protect myself. I will self-comfort this way. I will turn toward this thing to escape this thing, to numb out this thing, to soothe me, as opposed -- and it's counterintuitive in that moment to say, no, I am actually going to live cruciform -- shaped and formed like a cross -- with my arms outstretched. I'm going to turn and curve outward, not inward. I'm going to curve outward toward God and toward community, towards other people. I'm going to live cruciform.

And instead of -- with difficult things we want to self-preserve and put our hands around our chest. We want to not live like a cross. We want to self-preserve and self-protect. That's what we want to do. But we have to live counterintuitively and say, no, in this moment I am going to live cruciform with my hands outstretched towards God and towards other people. That's how I attach. I only can attach if I live cruciform, stretched out. Not trying to self-protect, but to live in that vulnerable posture.

Which that vulnerability of cruciformity leads to what we desperately want, the dream that we're all really looking for, which is connection of intimacy. We can't get to that intimacy without living cruciformity, without living with our hands outstretched towards God and other people.

So I think you're right, we self in our -- and I write about this so painfully in "Waymaker." I have lived exactly what you've said, Jennifer, where I have -- in my effort to take care of myself, not trusting that God was going to take care of me, my self-preservation and self-protection has self-sabotaged everything that I was looking for and dreaming of. Our effort to self-protect and to guard ourselves actually kind of ends up imprisoning ourselves alone and isolated. Only in turning cruciform and reaching out towards God and other people, vulnerably sharing and connecting, do I really end up where I want to be, which is intimately connected with other people. Attachment.

Jennifer Rothschild: It's good. And what you described, I think we need to kind of let it be right in our faces sometime, that this vulnerability -- our instinct is protect, and therefore it isolates. And so to live counterintuitive, trusting God regardless of the outcome.

I know for me -- I remember early on in our marriage -- or not so early on. I don't know, 15 years in -- I remember feeling like, man, Phil is not what I need. He doesn't meet my needs in some areas. And then --

Ann Voskamp: Every woman has been there. Every husband has been there.

Jennifer Rothschild: Right. But then I realized, do I ever allow him to meet my needs or do I try to self-protect so much that he never has a chance to be the hero I want him to be? And it was when I started to make that transition that I realized, wait a minute, I can't blame him for something I never allowed. And so I think sometimes with God we have to think similarly. Wait a minute, how honest -- how willing am I to be vulnerable so that I can see that God is strong for me, instead of trying to cope? Because that's what happens when we are in a difficult situation, we find ways to not feel the pain or we try to control what we can. And that can -- you've already alluded to it -- turn into addictions.

Ann Voskamp: All kinds of addiction. We're doing it at every turn, whether it's our screens, whether it's retail therapy.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes.

Ann Voskamp: There's all kinds of different ways. Whatever we are looking -- I mean, sometimes that looks like food, sometimes that looks like -- like, all the addicts are carrying a hurt in a wrong direction, looking for a way out of the pain. And it's a broken attachment somewhere that left a broken heart and we go in the wrong direction. So in all of those different -- whether it's -- I mean, there's -- all the ways we're looking for comfort can become addictions in the wrong direction. Can we then go ahead and turn towards God, because ultimately -- the enemy of our souls is hissing all the time that we can't -- we have to take care of ourselves.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes.

Ann Voskamp: Right from the garden, was God really taking care of you? Can I take those pains and those hurts to the foot of the cross and trust that Jesus is who he says he is? He is love and he will take care of me. And "Waymaker," I'm unpacking that same kind of story that you talked about, Jennifer, in my own marriage. How did I go ahead and try to take care of myself, as opposed to being vulnerable and living cruciform and sharing? Where was I in pain and turning in the right direction?

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, and the Lord is so tender and his mercies are so new --

Ann Voskamp: I know. Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- so we know that we can trust him with that, to take the risk. Because I know it feels like -- somebody listening right now feels like that's such a huge risk. But it is no risk when we know that the object of our trust is fully trustworthy.

So you write in your book, in "Waymaker," that there was this unexpected discovery, that you found that the way through is actually a practical way of life. It's what the ancients call a rule of life. So I would love for you to tell us what that is and why we need it.

Ann Voskamp: It starts first with stillness every morning. The Lord says in Exodus 14, be still and the Lord will do the battle for you. And in a culture of hustle, in a culture of striving and strategizing and I will plan to make a -- figure this all -- can I begin every morning in a posture of stillness before the Lord. Because a posture of stillness says I trust that God can do far more than I could ever do with the next 24 hours. So can I be still and know that God is God. So starting every day in stillness.

Then I look at attentiveness. You'll see in Exodus, God asks Moses questions. And I think, Jennifer, sometimes when we're in difficult places, we have all these questions of God. Where are you? And why was this happening? But be still and take the time to really hear. In Scripture, God asks us questions, questions like, "Who do you say that I am?" He asks Hagar, "Where are you coming from and where are you going to?" Jesus asks, in the Gospels, "What do you want?" So every day after a moment of stillness before the Lord, calming my spirit as an act of trusting him, attentiveness, for me to say -- and every morning my first question I ask myself, "Who do I say that you are, Lord?" That frames the whole day --

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

Ann Voskamp: -- when I remember that God is on the throne, and you say you are King of Kings and Lord of Lords. You are the one who says that you are loved and you're always for me. So when I go ahead -- and it's preaching Gospel back to myself about who do I say that God is. I think everything is location, location, location. Where am I coming from? Where am I going to? If we would say we have a relationship with God, then we need to know where is our soul in relation to God. So every morning, locating what am I struggling with and where am I going to? And then what do I really want? Laying that out before the Lord as a prayer, and then also to see, are my wants idols? Are there things that I need to go ahead and lay down for the Lord and say, "That's not a want that's after your own heart."

So there's cruciformity, the C. Stillness, Attentiveness, Cruciformity. What do I need to surrender today, Lord? What do I need to do today to live given to you and to reach out to you and to reach out to people?

And then it's R, our Revelation. We say we want God to make a way through, but have we spent time with his Word actually open to us so that God can reveal himself to us? You don't want to go out into the day until you've had a fresh revelation from the Lord, from his Word, that you're going to carry [inaudible]. I have seen God. This is my pillar of fire and this is how I'm going to follow him today.

And then it's always E, Examine. Have I examined my own heart today? Where are there fears lurking in my own heart that need to be slayed with the truth?

And then D, Doxology, ending my day with Thanksgiving and gratitude for how God has met me.

That stillness, attentiveness, cruciformity, revelation, examine, doxology, which spells the word SACRED, sets me apart for relationship and intimacy and attachment at-onement with God. Because just like the Israelites were in bondage to Pharaoh in Egypt, when God takes them out across the Red Sea, he brings them into what? Bonding with him. And every moment we get -- I'm moving from bondage to bonding with Jesus. I want a SACRED way of life that sets me apart for deep, fulfilling, abundant intimacy with Jesus, a way of life that will always lead the way through because I have deeper attachment with The Way himself.

Jennifer Rothschild: And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we love Ann Voskamp. She is just so deep, so authentic, so kind, and she tells the truth. I mean, I love how she said that in these hard places, you are moving from bondage to bonding in every moment.

K.C. Wright: Yeah. That SACRED way of life will lead you through because it leads you to a closer relationship with Jesus. And I know she talked a little fast sometimes. So in case you missed the exact words of the SACRED acronym, here they are. And, of course, remember you can go to the show notes at But here's what she said. SACRED stands for stillness, attentiveness, cruciformity, revelation, examination, and doxology.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, good stuff. I'm telling you, our people, you really need her book. I love her and I love her book. I mean, literally, she could write her grocery list and I would probably re-dedicate my life to Jesus. Okay? That's just how amazing she is.

We're going to have a link to it, as K.C. said, plus a link to the bonus episode that we did with Ann a few weeks ago. That's going to be on the show notes at

All right, our friends, remember, if you are walking a hard path right now, you can make it through. You can trust your Waymaker because you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. I can.

K.C. Wright: I can.

Jennifer Rothschild: And you can. All right, pour some more coffee.

K.C. Wright: I wish Ann was on my phone when I'm traveling through heavy traffic.

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, yeah.

K.C. Wright: Having her voice tell me --

Jennifer Rothschild: Calm down, K.C.

K.C. Wright: -- to take the exit. Turn around. You're going the wrong way.

Jennifer Rothschild: She could be your voice on GPS?

K.C. Wright: Yeah. Wouldn't that be wonderful?

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay. Well, Phil's is this Australian woman, and I'm like, "Would you please tell Christine Caine to pipe it down.


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