In January, I wrote about a gift I received from my husband Scott, The Joy Model: A Step-by-Step Guide to Peace, Purpose, and Balance, by Jeff Spadafora. It was an early #joysighting!. I intended to review it sooner, but chose to savor its wisdom before bringing it to you here at Joy Let Loose. Now that I have finished it, and have enjoyed looking around Jeff’s blog, and companion devotional journey, I can’t wait to tell you about it!
The Joy Model
Jeff was successful in life in many of the ways our culture defines success. He had a beautiful family, vibrant career, and a lovely home. Jeff also had access to many life luxuries many of us only dream of. But he sensed something was missing. He defines the years of his life between ages 25-40 as years of “smoldering discontent”. Jeff describes a pendulum swing between “doing for God” and “being with God” that left him exhausted and frustrated. Although he was doing everything he thought he was supposed to be doing to grow as a Christian, somehow the joy promised in the Bible was elusive to him.
It’s almost as if this faith thing had ignited a thirst that could never be quenched. (13)
As he shares his story of discontentment and joylessness, Jeff challenges readers to examine their own lives and smoldering discontent.
Have you ever had an idea elude you for a long season, even though you know something is there? Then all of a sudden, comprehension comes like a lightning bolt to clear the fog? That is what happened for Jeff after several months of trying to create a diagram that adequately described the concept of joy. In a moment, he had a profound, yet simple, grid. It revolutionized his teaching, and accurately portrayed his own journey from discontent to joyful living.
Not only does this joy model portray the concept, but it shows how to move from where people are now to greater joy. Jeff calls it the M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan. He is careful to explain that seeking joy for joy’s sake is kind of like chasing a butterfly in its elusiveness. His plan coaches readers to seek God, promising that peace, joy and fulfillment are by-products of a focus on God.
I felt exposed by the first few chapters of this book. As an almost 20-year-old believer, I could hear my own discontent echo through their pages as I saw my pendulum swinging. So, I loved the helpful depth and clarity of chapters four through ten, as Jeff gently walked me through each element of the M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan:
- Treasure (and Temple)
Margin is what actually makes room for change to happen. It is difficult to allow for in our busy cultures. But it is essential. We just returned from a two-week trip designed specifically for margin. Our family transition that has been unfolding over the last year has drained us physically and emotionally. We all needed to just breathe. Rest by the pool in the sunshine, on the sand by the ocean, and around the dinner table with family and friends was what my soul needed!
Jeff’s coaching on margin, though, goes beyond the periodic vacation, and points to the need for space in everyday life. He gives permission to dream of the ideal life, and contrast it with reality. Margin is necessary to bridge the gap.
Abiding echoes Jesus’ words in John 15:5. So many of us get caught up in all of the “doing” of Christianity that we do not truly abide in Christ. Jeff gives permission for readers to enjoy God in ways He has uniquely designed them. But he also challenges us to come close to God in ways we perhaps haven’t before. He outlines specific disciplines that can draw us closer to the Lord.
Jeff’s chapter about Self-Awareness reveals a revolutionary part of his own journey. It exposes what he calls the “False Self”, against which most of us war. It helps us see the destructiveness of self-deception, and the limits that our selfishness place on us. But it points us toward the “Real Self”, and movement on the joy model. He promises this discovery holds the life you have always wanted.
Real joy is being exactly who we are in service to others and for the glory of God. (114)
In his chapter about Treasure, Jeff introduces the “Green Monster”. He discovered that, far too often, finances degrade people’s joy. But he says that wealth and a life of joy are not mutually exclusive. His own discovery that he relied on wealth to form his identity set him on a trajectory to learn how His money could bless other people. This chapter is one of strategy to help readers take the same steps.
Engagement is about being enlisted in the work of the Holy Spirit on this earth. But it is impossible to enlist prior to the self-examination of the previous chapters, so don’t rush ahead! By now, our passions and paradigms have changed, and we are freed up to step in fully to God’s will for our lives. This is not about the obligation of what we ought to do, but more about being brave to do what we were created to do.
We don’t lack clarity from God about what we should be doing. We lack he creativity and courage to go do it. (136)
Finally, in the section about Relationships,Jeff reminds us of the treasure we have in the people God has given to us. He challenges the superficial relationships we often keep, holding people at arm’s length. And Jeff encourages readers to examine their key relationships, resolve conflict more carefully, and develop intimacy.
Jeff encourages readers not to try this journey alone. He recommends mentoring, coaching, and accountability. His companion blog and devotional journey are helpful tools he provides to help. But he says most people will not be successful trying to go this road alone.
The Joy Model Recommended!
I am so glad I took my time working through The Joy Model: A Step-by-Step Guide to Peace, Purpose, and Balance, rather than simply consuming it in a day or two! I plan now to go back through it again, following Jeff’s recommendations and strategies. His joy model is clear and very helpful. If you are excited to start reading right away, I’d recommend you download the kindle version. On this journey toward joy at Joy Let Loose, I want my life to radiate the joy of the Lord. But I can still see my pendulum swinging sometimes, and my propensity to focus more on what I ought to do, rather than what I was created to do.
I am confident that Jeff Spadafora’s book will have a significant impact on my own joy-journey, and I want to recommend it to you in yours. If you have felt smoldering discontent, unsure why the joy of the Lord seems elusive to you, then please check out this book!
I would love to hear about your experience with The Joy Model in the comments below! Where are you on the grid? How is God moving you from where you are to where you want to be?