How to Live a Life that Overflows with Thankfulness

Last Monday I had my second opportunity to lead in prayer on Facebook Live. It was the fifteenth day of  21 Days of Prayer for Waterline Church, where I am the Director of Relational Arts. You know, I absolutely loved my time leading online and experienced fantastic engagement with the people who joined me live. We talked about how to live a life that overflows with thankfulness.

How to live a life that overflows with thankfulness

Thankfulness

The theme that book-ends each week of our 21 Days is  thankfulness. Therefore, we begin and end each week with gratitude. The Scripture I shared was Colossians 2:6-7.

 And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him.  Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. (Col. 2:6-7 NLT)

I love how the Message words this same passage:

My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving. (Col. 2:6-7 MSG)

 

#BOOM

Paul paints a clear correlation here:

Rooting + Building our lives in Christ  —>  Strong Faith + Thankfulness

I believe most of us want to be thankful people. And I think many of us want to have strong faith. But it’s hard to muster those things up. It seems they depend on our rootedness in Christ, which leads to lives built up in Him – living Jesus.

When we begin to live Jesus, to truly walk out the things we’ve learned (from the Word, from our Pastors, from our worship songs, from others’ life stories), then our faith grows, and we become thankful people.

Does that sound scary to anyone? Doesn’t walking out what we’ve learned mean stepping out before you are sure God will catch you? Isn’t that kind of like jumping out of the plane before you know for sure the parachute is going to open up?

 

That’s faith, my friends.

Faithfulness is one of the spiritual fruit listed by Paul in his letter to the Galatians.

Spiritual fruit grows naturally in people rooted in Christ. Click To Tweet
Fruit

One of my sons likes to grow things.

At any given time, we could have potted plants from pineapples and cantaloupe to avocados and tomatillos in various stages of growth around our house and patio. I don’t know if any of you are gardeners, but I’ve noticed that sometimes fruit grows v-e-r-y slowly. After all, nurturing young plants requires incredible patience and diligence. And it generally helps if he keeps going back to check them, care for them, and assess their progress.

Sometimes I think our spiritual fruit grows in us so incrementally that I wonder if we even notice. And I wonder if we forget to keep track of its progress.

So, I want to help us notice fruit.

Monday evening, during prayer time for the 21 Days of Prayer our church is walking through on Facebook Live, I issued a challenge I’d like to extend here too. Instead of looking for external things to be thankful for (let’s face it, there are a TON), instead, why don’t we start to look internally for some fruit to thank God for?

Overflowing and Spilling Over

Did you notice that Paul said our thankfulness would overflow? The Message version says, “spill over.” That means it comes from the inside. And it can’t be contained.  After all, things that overflow come out from somewhere, and can’t be held in any longer.

So what’s on the inside? What’s going on inside of us that might begin to spill out thanks? 

One key to natural gratitude is being diligent to acknowledge and express what God is doing in us. Click To Tweet

Now, an incredibly important discipline for the joy-seeker and the one who wants to be grateful is to  look for things to be thankful for. So let’s start the inward search. Let’s take inventory of our fruit – the ones that are ripe, and the ones just blossoming.

Notice Fruit and Discover Thankfulness

 

Printable to inventory your spiritual fruit

 

Download the free printable

As you take your time considering each of these spiritual fruit, allow God to direct your thoughts. Important: Recognize that our fruit doesn’t grow all at once. Often we are in a season where God is helping us to grow just one type of fruit. Other times several types might be growing at once, but you’ll still find it s-l-o-w.

How do you start?! Survey your day today. Do you notice you reacted differently to any situations than you might have a few months ago? Think about conversations, or your inner thoughts. Do you have a sense of contentment where there used to be anxiety? Do you notice you have been able to be more kind to someone difficult in your life?

Where are you changing?

Then, as you notice that you indeed have grown, even if it is just a small amount of growth, begin to celebrate that! Speak it out to the Lord. Write it in this Colossians 2:6 journal, leather notebook, or on the printable above. And tell a prayer partner or friend.

Let your living spill over into thanksgiving. 

 Live a life that overflows with thankfulness

Habits take time to form. So I invite you to keep today’s printable handy. Let it remind you to go back to the garden again and again. Assess growth, nurture and cultivate it. And with every new leaf or new blossom, thank God – loudly! Praise Him that fruit is growing and you are living Jesus.

Those who do overflow with thankfulness.

Elizabeth Joy

Reclaiming Joy: 3 Prayer Prompts to Help You Find Joy Again!

Sometimes we straight up need some prayer prompts for reclaiming  joy. We need guidance how to navigate this life and all its unexpected happenings with a perspective that is hopeful. If you agree, read on…

 Reclaiming Joy

Life is Hard. We need to actively work at reclaiming joy. Take the 3 Prayer Prompts challenge to find your joy again.

Hope doesn’t necessarily come naturally to many of us. Rather, it often lives trampled in the dirt of disappointment. So we need help to pick it up, dust it off, and then walk in it.

There are things in our lives that seem to thrive on stealing our joy and our hope. Discouragements, doubts, heartbreak, and fears all connive to strip the joyful person of a hopeful heart and render him or her joyless. We wonder if we will ever find our way back up again.

But it is not our destiny to remain there, my friend.

In fact, Scripture tells us to rejoice and be glad, because our reward in Heaven is so great (Matthew 5:12). And it says to rejoice in the Lord at all times, and always be full of the joy of the Lord! (Phil 4:4)

Is that even possible?

Well, I suggest it is, but we have some work to do to get there. We need to be on mission reclaiming joy if we haven’t been living a rejoice-always kind of life.

We need to get on mission reclaiming joy if we haven't been living a rejoice-always kind of life. Click To Tweet
Rejoice Always

So, let’s start small.

What if, for the next 3 days, you chose to be deliberate about reclaiming joy?

What if, for the next 3 days, you chose to be deliberate about reclaiming joy? Click To Tweet

 What if, no matter what life threw at you in those 3 days, you grabbed this goal by its seemingly impossible horns, and didn’t let go, not for one stinking second? Or if you did, you grabbed right back on to it again? What if?

Are you up for that challenge?

If you are, then I applaud you. And I want to encourage you in it! I’d love for you to join in the discussion over on my Joy Let Loose Facebook community. Could your reclaiming joy journey impact others?

If you aren’t up for the #ReclaimingJoy challenge yet, then I also applaud your honesty, and pray you will take the time to prepare for it. You can jump in anytime!

The #Reclaiming Joy Challenge

Each day, as early as you can, set aside 15 minutes to spend by yourself. This time is similar to The Morning Joy Challenge. But this time, we are on an even more specific mission.

  • Quiet your mind, breathe deeply, and spend a few moments simply relaxing. Then move in to the Prayer Prompt for the day. The printable below is to help you.

Reclaiming Joy Infographic

Download it here!

  • Read the verse several times, slowly. Allow certain words to stand out to you. Look them up, if you want to. This is a good resource for that (simply type the English word in the top search bar.)
  • Focus your thoughts, and then your prayer, on something that stands out to you. Ask God to show you where this particular verse is applicable in your own joy journey. Confess the areas where you have with-held yourself from Him, or deliberately gone another way. Acknowledge areas where you know you are already maturing. Re-read the verse, and ask the Lord to help you lean in to Him today. Plan for hope!
  • Then as you go about your day, remain conscious of how God is with you.
  • Finally, at the end of the day, revisit the morning’s Prayer Prompt. God may show you something you hadn’t noticed before.
What’s next in Reclaiming Joy?
  1. If you are taking the reclaiming joy challenge, let us know in the comments below!
  2. And after you’ve focused on your #ReclaimingJoy prayer prompts over the next three days, I’d love for you to report your progress either in the comments, or in the Facebook Community.  We need community to spur us on! Use the hashtag #ReclaimingJoy.
  3. And, if you haven’t yet, subscribe to  Joy Let Loose to receive even more Prayer Prompts in your inbox. I won’t be spammy – I promise!

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

Believing in you as you begin #ReclaimingJoy!

Elizabeth Joy

4 Lies that Steal Our Joy (& the Truth that Sets Us Free)

Joy is real. It’s an actual wellspring that can sustain us, strengthen us, and spill over to people around us. Joy is promised to us in Scripture, so why do so many of us feel we have lost it? What is it that comes along to steal our joy?

A primary reason is that there is an enemy that is real whose goal is to steal our joy. His lifeblood is to steal, kill and destroy. His nature is to lie. What greater power could he have over us than to deceive us, stripping us of confidence, and silencing our wellspring of joy?

Thankfully, we can identify lying thoughts, take them captive, and make them obedient to Christ. For the good of our souls, it is absolutely essential that we name the lies, and replace them with Truth.

For the good of our souls, it is essential that we name lies and replace them with Truth. Click To Tweet

 

At  Joy Let Loose, we passionately pursue the kind of life that explodes with joy. So we want to help identify 4 Lies that Steal Our Joy (& the Truth that Sets Us Free.) It takes practice, and often a whole lot of accountability, to recognize, name, and replace the lies. But I promise you that freedom and joy lie on the other side!

4 Lies that Steal Our Joy
(& the Truth that Sets Us Free)

4 Lies that Steal Our Joy

 

  • Lie #1:  I am less than… 

Oh, how easy it is to look at ourselves in light of everyone else! It’s incredibly simple for the enemy to gain access to our perspective as soon as we begin to evaluate how _____ we are compared to anyone else. Have you experienced this?

                                      I’m not:

pretty enough

smart enough

thin enough

energetic enough

spiritual enough

young enough

______ enough…

It takes very little time for a comparison mindset to steal the wind from our sails and suck our joy dry. But Scripture is clear that we only need to see ourselves in light of Jesus Christ. In Romans, Paul says that if we follow Jesus, then the Holy Spirit testifies with our spirits that we are God’s children, and co-heirs with Christ. As a co-heir, we are joined with Him–adopted as God’s sons and daughters–and compared only to Him.

Truth: I Am Enough

God says that we are enough.  Psalm 139 says we are fearfully and wonderfully made. God’s gift of grace in Jesus Christ to rescue us from sin and transform us in to His likeness demonstrates pure, unrestrained love.

The next time the lie comes to your mind that you are not ____ enough, capture it. Name it as a lie. And replace it with the Truth that God sees you, chooses you, and loves you enough to call you His own son or daughter. He sees you as welcome and wonderful enough to join with Jesus.

God sees you, chooses you, and loves you enough to call you His own son or daughter. Click To Tweet

 

  • Lie #2:  I don’t have enough…

I’ve lived lots of places. Most of them have been in (North American) depressed economies. But God recently called us to minister in a very wealthy area. Feeling out of place? A little! But I’ve found that it doesn’t matter whether I live around luxury or lack, the enemy still likes to throw darts about it.

When I had to rely on WIC to afford milk for our kids, I thought, “I don’t have enough.” When we struggled to pay for car repairs or to fill the tank, “I don’t have enough.” When our oil bill exceeded our mortgage payment…same thoughts.

But in those seasons of scarcity, God proved again and again that He is enough. His repeated, miraculous provision through the hands of the generous showed me that, in fact, I had so much that I could overflow it to others. When bank statements made no sense, still there was just enough for us not to sink. When we were not sure how we would make it to another pay-check, bags of groceries and plentiful harvest would be waiting on our porch. 

Recently, we bought a house. The house-hunting process in a wealthy area proved to be a tempting place to begin to say, “I don’t have enough..” But I’ve learned not to pine after what I can’t have, and to be content with what is possible. And high in the mountains of Haiti, I was reminded again that He is enough. And not only do I have enough, I have enough for others too. I will not be defeated by a poverty mindset. My God provides.

I will not be defeated by a poverty mindset. My God provides. Click To Tweet
Truth: My God Provides

So whether you are in a season of luxury or one of lack, be wary of your thoughts. Gratitude and contentment are always possible as we lean into the Lord’s provision. Challenge the lie that you don’t have enough with the truth that He will provide for all of your needs in Christ Jesus.

 

  • Lie #3:  My circumstance Means no joy…

Let’s face it: life is plain hard. Many of us struggle against realities we never dreamed possible, and navigate circumstances that seem too much to bear. Energy gets zapped, hope seems lost, and a joyful perspective seems impossible to find again. But our joy is not dependent on circumstances alone. In fact, it is dependent on our God.

In a previous post, I quoted Dallis Willard who said that joy is “not pleasure, a mere sensation, but a pervasive and constant sense of wellbeing. It claims our entire body and soul, both the physical and the non-physical side of the human self.”(1)  Abiding joy is what causes the widow to turn toward God for solace, and makes the cancer patient intent on leaning in to each remaining moment. 

Truth: Joy Disregards Circumstances

Our circumstances might dampen our feelings of happiness, but the wellbeing that is found in Jesus will not be shaken.  Joy remains. We must peer through the fog to remember it and lean on its strength. When Isaiah prophesied in Chapter 52 that deliverance was coming, he instructed the Israelites to lean in to the promise of salvation, and to take off chains and shout for joy, even as they waited. They weren’t to hold out for rescue before they rejoiced about it.  

Joy disregards circumstances. And our disciplined rejoicing in faith can yield the fruit of abundant joy. So the next time your life circumstances threaten your wellbeing, and the enemy whispers to you that your joy is lost, refuse to believe it. Claim the truth that the joy of the Lord is your strength, and lean in to it.

Claim the truth that the joy of the Lord is your strength. And then lean in to it. Click To Tweet

 

  • I’m just not a joyful person…

I know people whose nature is to exude happiness. Their thanksgiving is inspiring and their energy is boundless. I know others who express joy through patience and contentment. Still others depict joy in their compassion and generosity. It takes on different forms, and is not a one-size-fits-all quality.

Joy is a God-like trait, and a fruit that grows in us as we grow closer to the Lord. It becomes our very nature as we are transformed to be like Jesus. I am introverted in personality, and even-keel in temperament, so I have often thought I may not be joyful. I’ve questioned where my joy is. But Scripture shows joy in many forms: it looks like perseverance in trial, exuberance in praise, confidence and gratitude for God’s provision, and deep and abiding faith.

Truth: My Joy is Unique

So, when you are tempted to think you are not a joyful person, shake off your one-size-fits-all definition. Your joy is unique. Joy doesn’t look just one way – it is not only exuberant, chipper, and boisterous. Instead, remind yourself that joy also abides, remains steadfast, believes fully, and bears patiently. Ask the Lord to restore to you the joy of your salvation.

4 Lies That Steal Our Joy
(& the Truth that Sets Us Free)

 

Lies & Truth

Joy, my friends, grows in us as we grow in Christ. It is bold and it is active. The enemy of our souls is a thief and a deceiver., and he wants to steal our joy. So I pray today that you will see fruit in your lives from unearthing these 4 Lies that Steal Our Joy (& the Truth that Sets Us Free.)

How about you? How do you take thoughts captive and claim what is true? 

Elizabeth Joy

 

 

 

 

 

How to Find Real Joy Again when Life Circumstances have Stolen it (A Blog Round-up)

Real Joy

I am so happy it is May! Spring is my favorite season: one of new life and new beginnings. But many people can’t face this season with hope. They wonder how to find real  joy again when life circumstances have stolen it. 

Find Real Joy Again When Life Has Stolen It

A Joy Blog Round-up

As I’ve been writing about my journey toward  joy, I’ve discovered other writers that are also joy-journeying. For this post, I’ve rounded up some of my new blogging friends, and asked them to tell you about their experiences. They have been finding real  joy again even when their life experiences have stolen it. Their stories are real, and their joy is contagious. I pray you will learn from them, and then take a visit to each of their blogs to see what God is up to in their lives.

Choosing Joy in Loss

Hannah at The Young Wives Club

Hannah writes over at The Young Wives Club. She shares her experience with devastating loss:

I will always remember the look on the doctor’s face when she told us we were experiencing a miscarriage.

Despite her best attempts to deliver the news with compassion, my heart sank. How could the Lord allow this to happen to us? To me? I’m not sure what stung more in that moment. The reality that our little one had not survived or that looming feeling that God had somehow gotten it wrong.

Pain has a way of blinding us to the Lord’s movements. We feel the physical and emotional oppression. We long to hear his voice, but the silence feels so alone. Regardless of how much we pray, it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

For a long time, I lived in my pain. It was my identity and, begrudgingly, I allowed it to consume who I was. I didn’t want to continue in this debilitating cycle, but I couldn’t seem to find my way out. I started the believe that the Lord had forgotten me. How could this possibly be his plan for my life? And years of hurting, how could a miscarriage be added into the mix? It hardly seemed fair from my perspective and, the more I believed that I had gotten the short-end of the stick, the less I was able to relish in the  joy set before me.

You see, real  joy isn’t like happiness or grief. It’s not an emotion that comes and goes with life. Like peace, the  joy of the Lord is something we are offered continually. But we have to accept it, choose it, and embrace it despite the tumultuous waters surrounding us.

Like peace, the joy of the Lord is something we are offered continually. Click To Tweet

Just as Psalm 30:5 says, “Pain may last for the night, but  joy comes in the morning.” The morning doesn’t necessarily mean we are delivered from our circumstances. Though it would be nice to be instantaneously delivered, the “morning” is the result of us choosing to be joyful regardless of everything else that is going on.

Joy comes in the morning. In that ER, I didn’t believe that joy would ever come, but the Lord was gracious and through that grace, I learned to choose joy over my pain. I found freedom from the oppression and encountered Christ’s strength to carry on.

Joy Again, Even After Infidelity

Joy after Infidelity

We learn Esther Hosea’s humble and vulnerable story of  joy restored in marriage at His Dearly Loved Daughter:

When I discovered Your Words, I devoured them. They are my  joy and my heart’s DELIGHT, for I bear Your name, Oh Lord of Heaven’s Armies. (Jeremiah 15:16)

My story is pretty simple.  I fell in love with and married a man who has suffered most of his life with addiction, rebellion, and pride.  I knew little of these struggles when I married him.  Despite the monster that hid in the secret depths of his heart and mind, we were always crazy about each other.  

Through the nearly 17  years of our marriage he see-sawed back and forth between two personalities: The secret one who went out into the world and did what he wanted; and the one who came home to me. He was able to close the dark monster in a drawer and walk away, forgetting he even existed.  He wanted to follow God the rest of the time and we built an ideal life together.

But our God is a God of truth and He does not allow what is hidden to stay that way.  Over many painful years He showed me exactly what I was dealing with and I realized that the man I had loved with all my heart had been very unfaithful.  It was devastating.  Earth shattering!  I found myself completely robbed of my  joy for a brief season because my eyes could focus on nothing apart from my pain.

I am the daughter of the High King of Heaven, though, and He does not leave His dearly loved daughters alone in their misery.  He pursues them with relentless love.  Like Jeremiah in the verses above, I devoured the Word of God through those dark months.  As I did, I found my joy restored.  

The Bible reveals so much about who God is, and what He has done for us.  As we read it, we begin to realize His magnitude; to look up in awe at the Mighty One, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!  We realize how very small we are, how insignificant in the scope of eternity.  And then, we see what He did for us.  We see that even though we are nothing (wretched, worthless sinners) this mighty, all-powerful God died in our place!  Why?  Why would He do that?  It’s ridiculous!  

He did it because He loves us, and wants to have a relationship with us.  Plain and simple.  Because we matter to Him.  I am so humbled!  It causes my heart to sing!  It fills me with unspeakable  joy!  I might often feel unloved here in this world, but the Lord God Almighty loves me!  He chose me!  I am in awe!

Writing Joy in Pain

 

Desiree at Making Joy Contagious

Desiree is intent on Making Joy Contagious on her blog. Hear part of her story about seeking joy even in incredible physical pain:

For the last 20 years, I have been praying, seeking and journaling with God through my struggles. It has been an awesome journey seeking Him for my marriage, children, heart, and His strength. It has taught me a myriad of things about myself. Things I wanted to know and things I could do without. I’ve found peace in times of trouble. I have found a breath of fresh air where darkness wanted to creep in. 

I have found a breath of fresh air where darkness wanted to creep in. Click To Tweet

At times when I felt I couldn’t go another day, prayer and journaling reminded me He (My Lord) is always there. Staying in His word kept me in a daily conversation, where God continuously filled me with His abundant, real  joy.

Seeking His  joy provided me the comfort when trials seemed like impossible mountains to climb. It provided me peace when my body was ill with cancer or in pain (did I mention years of pain). And it filled me with love when I sought to be loved in the world and by the world (divorce). 

In my circumstances I chose Him through prayer and journaling each and every time. I chose to seek His real  joy because He has a divine plan for my life and it was the only thing that brought me peace. 

I know today that my peace has come because I have sought Him and have allowed Him to comfort me and give me strength regardless of my circumstances. Seeking His Joy has become a daily action of prayer and journaling that has kept me connected to something so much greater than myself. In His presence I have  found an inward peace and contentment regardless of the circumstances.

Today, in my blog I share these prayers, because God has asked me to. They were a private part of me but I know now after so many medical trials and struggles that my struggles were intentional and purposeful. They have brought me to this place right here where I can share with others on finding His real  joy and living fully in His presence regardless of what life throws at you and not allowing anything to steal what God has designed just for you today.

We are His masterpiece…so begin your journey today by praying, seeking and meeting Him as much as possible with pen and paper through the pain.

 

Seeing Joy in a Disability

Jerusha

Jerusha shares her vulnerable journey over at Beauty in the Broken. Today we hear about finding joy in a disability:

Living with a disability can sometimes steal your  joy. There are uncertainties about your future. There are limitations on your lifestyle.  Inconveniences are peppered throughout your days. Add all of these together, and it can often leave you feeling hopeless, helpless and unhappy.

I have felt all of these things. I was diagnosed with an untreatable disease last fall that is slowly stealing my mobility, my energy and my patience. I’ve lost my  joy a time or two. I’ve cried a lot of tears from deep within my soul. What happens when a happy-go-lucky person isn’t happy anymore?

There was a time when I didn’t think I’d ever be happy again. But then I remembered something that is easy to forget. I remembered I have  joy in Jesus. This is not a fleeting  joy. This is an everlasting joy. In James 1:2-4 it says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great  joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (NLT)

My greatest  joy comes through suffering. I know it’s hard to understand, in fact, it took me quite some time to realize this myself. How does one find  joy in the midst of suffering? The answer is Jesus. I believe that I was gifted with this disability because God’s plan for my life is more important than my plan. It far greater than anything I could have imagined. When I stop and think about this, I find great  joy that God has chosen me to show his glory through my disability. God chose me.

There is great  joy in knowing that God hand-picked me for a purpose. Even in suffering, we can rejoice. Because we serve a great God who has great plans.  And so I rejoice in Him and His goodness. My favourite way to rejoice in Him is to play my favourite worship music and sing along. Sometimes, I don’t feel like singing. But I close my eyes, listen to the words, and something changes. My heart seems lighter. And out of that, springs a  joy that overflows. From that spring of  joy comes contentment. And just like that, this happy-go-lucky girl is happy again.

Real Joy Again
How About You?

I’m so thankful to my fellow bloggers today for sharing their struggles and their real joy so vulnerably with you today. Visit each of their blogs for more encouragement. Here are four practical steps that can help you recover stolen joy:

  • Choose real joy over pain
  • Find God in His Word
  • Commune with Him as you pray and journal
  • Pour yourself out to Him in worship

Elizabeth Joy

The Joy Model, by Jeff Spadafora: A Book Review


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!

 

Book Review

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.

Revelation

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.

M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan

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:

  • Margin
  • Abiding
  • Self-awareness
  • Treasure (and Temple)
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
Thoughts

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.

Inner Focus

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. 

Outward Focus

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!

The Joy Model

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! 

Comments

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? 

Elizabeth Joy