This is a book review on Ann Voskamp’s The Broken Way.
Over the past year and a half, I have become quite acquainted with what Paul calls joyful suffering in Romans 5.
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5, NIV).
In the TPT translation, Paul defines joy amid suffering as “a joyful confidence, knowing that our pressures will develop in us patient endurance…” (Romans 5:3, TPT).
When I graduated college in 2019, I felt like a clamshell cascading its way upon the smooth sand with little idea of where I was heading. Leaving a mark as I skidded along in confusion, adulting, and health concerns would leave me hollow and shell-less. In the fire of chronic pain, diagnoses, and Hell-brimming nights pulled from darkness and chaos, a friend gave me “The Broken Way” in hopes that by sharing someone else’s brokenness, I might be made a little more whole.
What Is The Broken Way?
Although my pain has not fully subsided, and to this day, suffering is a familiar friend, I am thankful for that mentor who wasn’t afraid to be cut by my wounded and fragmented pieces.
When I first began reading Voskamp’s view of being broken I had a skewed perception of what it meant to be whole. Since childhood, I watched family members destroyed by cynical abuse, addictive opioids, and enslaving bondages. For nearly a decade, an attempt to control anything through an obsession with health and exercise almost killed me.
You see, all my life, I was good at hiding. I was good at putting up a front and storing my broken places. And if Satan can convince you that the fear of being vulnerable and real with others is a burden, then he’s already won the war. Ironically, within the first page of the book, I was weeping. I was mourning because a struggle that people often only hear about was bled into the pages of Voskamp’s novel.
The Aim of the Essay
If you’re going to read this essay, you should know that Voskamp holds back nothing short of transparency. As a Christian author, she presents many arguments aligned with Scripture; however, one would not necessarily need to be a Believer to benefit from its presuppositions. Voskamp records the painful loss of her sister at a young age in a horrific farming accident. Relating that story to the art and craft of wheat, barley, and brokenness, she argues that a daring path into the abundant life usually comes at the expense of not being afraid of broken things. Broken things that split out from the wounds of her flaws and stories.
Where this Book Excelled
Overall, this page-turner was phenomenal. In almost 300 pages, Voskamp displays her beliefs not in opposition but through candor, heart, emotion, and The Word of Life. Specifically, three chapters stood out as pivotal:
1)Why Love is Worth Breaking Your Heart
2)Breaking the Lies in Your Head
3) Why You Don’t Have to Be Afraid to Be Broken
Breaking Your Heart
Presenting a truth of vulnerability, Voskamp explains that while we’re often afraid to share our faults with others, true healing comes after we’ve shattered. Exchanging conversations with her farmer, children, family, and friends, it is clear that if one will benefit from this book, they must be willing to love. It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Love Himself, in the beauty of Scripture, dwelt among us that we might love Him back. He broke His heart, His body, His soul at the chance that we may believe in Him. If you aren’t willing to give your heart to Jesus, to love Him and others with all your heart, and do so with authenticity and the validity of truth, you’ll never be capable of healing.
“Love is a risk–that’s never a risk” (pg.118).
Breaking the Lies
While the juxtaposition of Voskamp’s premise rests on the belief of choosing to love and be broken, it also suggests an exposed choice of using your temptations and trials as the launching for your testimony. Valuing God and His Word over personal feelings, we can defeat the lies of our past with the promises of His future. While sticks and stones may break our bones, and words do hurt, emotions are fickle, but His Word lasts forever.
“How we feel about us is not how He feels about us. How we are is not who we are. Who we are is who He is” (pg.193).
Breaking the lies begins with trusting Love and then being brave enough to show Him the scars of where you’ve been in comparison to where He’s calling you now.
Why You Don’t Have to Be Afraid to Be Broken
Concluding her text, Voskamp fragments pieces of her heartbreak with the hope that one doesn’t have to be afraid to be broken. With arms wide open, it is by giving others a broken heart that both parties taste freedom. Though we fear cutting them with a truth too real or a hardship too unbearable, we cannot be fearful of being cut.
“For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Corinthians 1:5, ESV).
Where this Book Fell Short
Thus far, I have presented why Voskamp’s novel gleams from the pages with generous commentary and vivid imagery. However, I believe there are also a few elements that fell short when it came to the concept as a whole.
While I am all for beautifully crafted figurative language, Voskamp often lost me in her arrangement of flowery words and painfully accurate descriptions. I found myself stopping a lot to re-read a reasonably simple statement because the terms tongue-twisted themselves almost every chapter.
Similarly, although I have been acquainted with the details of being broken, Voskamp assumes that everyone needs to share that brokenness to be whole. In theory, this is a valid belief; that we cannot relate to others and help heal them without being honest. However, some people recover better by keeping to themselves, using CBT, or journaling, for example, about thoughts and emotions.
Who Should Read this Book?
Contrary to appearance, this book is not just for those who have been broken or are fragmented, but also for those who want to help others who are. Through numerous Scriptures, real-life stories, and heart-wrenching tales, anyone who wants to learn the beauty of breaking and healing could benefit from this book.
The topic is relatively simple: If we want to experience growth from our brokenness, we must be willing to expose and share it at the expense of His testimony within us. Reading this book to fix your brokenness will not help if you aren’t ready to adapt, grow, and change. But choosing to serve, share, and embrace your brokenness will allow Voskamp’s principles to run deep in transformational change for your well-being.