Abandoning the American Dream to find true abundance

John CortinesFebruary 17, 2021  /  Perspective and insights

Financial success is never as fulfilling as we think it will be. When money controls our decisions, we find momentary satisfaction but lasting discontent. When God controls our decisions, we find momentary challenges but lasting peace.

In his grace, God allowed me to realize, at 26, that I was chasing after the wrong picture of success. I let go of money as the secret master of my life, and I discovered more adventure, deeper emotions, and a closer and more–fulfilling fellowship with God than I’d ever known was possible.

Until then, I had diligently followed every wise financial rule, even from childhood. I saved up $10,000 mowing lawns in the blazing summer heat as a high schooler. I studied hard to land a great job and earned six figures my first year out of college. My wife and I tithed faithfully and saved like crazy, amassing $300,000 in savings by the time we were 24.

I headed to Harvard Business School in further pursuit of this financial mission and successfully landed an offer for my post–MBA dream job. After graduation, we would head overseas, where I’d earn more than $300,000 per year.

But then, in his mercy, God began to reveal the emptiness of my life of pursuing money.

Sitting in our Boston apartment on a snowy day, I slowly read Luke 12, over and over, and Jesus’ words pierced my heart. Even though I’d met every financial goal I had ever set, I was chasing the wind. I felt God asking me if I’d consider a different kind of life – a life of joyful freedom, deep sacrifice, and heartfelt trust. Over the next few months, we prepared to change our life trajectory forever.

The big questions

I abandoned my dream job and went to work for a small nonprofit, earning 65 percent less. This meant a mortgage and student loan payments. It meant that we couldn’t send our kids to elite private schools. And it could mean career suicide. But God was relentless and clear. This was his plan.

We wrestled with God and asked the big questions.

“Why would you call us away from the dreams we worked so hard for? Can we really trust you? Why do we feel upset, even angry, even in the midst of truly following your call?”

We counted the cost of following Jesus, and the cost was high. But we couldn’t deny what we were being called to do. While we knew we were squarely in the middle of God’s will, we felt isolated, spiritually attacked, and alone for two full years. But, eventually, we discovered that the joy of walking with God is worth any price we might have to pay.

We counted the cost of following Jesus, and the cost was high.