The idea behind this particular blog post is simply to synthesize & share the practical model for cultivating joy created by Jeff Spadafora in his book, The Joy Model. I recently finished this “step-by-step guide” which I believe can help nearly anyone (including myself) in a determination to discover greater purpose in everyday life through an implementation of Christian values and appropriate balance of “being” and “doing.”
The primary issue tackled in this book is the fact that millions, if not billions, of people on Earth struggle with a consuming discontent with their lives. They feel they have little purpose, mindlessly going through the motions of day-to-day life in order to provide for their families or at the very least, maintain their own sanity. The book seems to be geared more toward middle-aged adults, however as a young adult I still found the basic message to be incredibly relevant. Since I went all-in for Jesus last year, I began feeling an overwhelming heartache at the thought of so many people who are unhappy, unable to see the beauty that lies around us regardless of circumstances. This book provides an empirical process for shifting our focus off of ourselves and our own dissatisfactions, onto a higher purpose of sustaining peace and serving others which we’ve all been called toward.
Shown below is the diagram of The Joy Model– where the objective is to find ourselves in the place of “the Joyful Follower” in terms of balancing our being (“the spiritual process of growing in the knowledge of God and of myself” p. 25) and our doing (“living out all that I am learning and becoming in all aspects of my life” p. 25). Many of us find ourselves in the other three quadrants. “The Frustrated Believer” fails to allow their soul to be nourished, stuck in the seemingly tedious routine of squeezing a prayer in here or there in the midst of a busier-than-thou lifestyle. They struggle with a lack of spiritual growth and encounters with the Holy Spirit, both of which are crucial to our ultimate godly joy. “The Weary Worker” wears themselves down with good deeds motivated by negative emotions such as guilt or shame, as opposed to love and gratitude. They are stuck in this quadrant based on their misguided need to prove themselves (either to God or to those around them) as worthy and holy believers. A disconnect from intimacy with the Lord is where the problem lies. “The Heartless Hypocrite” experiences a stagnant heart which inhibits the person’s life from changing altogether. They might often look spiritual on the outside, yet fail to become aware of who God created them to be because they aren’t actually living fully in His presence.
In order to find ourselves in the desired upper right-hand quadrant, Spadafora developed a M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan to aid believers in reaching their highest potential for joy in Christ. While the book obviously goes into depth with the explanation of these six steps, I chose a key line or two from each section which summarizes the magnitude of each piece of the plan.
“You won’t experience purpose, meaning, and joy if you don’t create margin in your calendar to proactively make changes in your life” (p. 43). The constant pursuit of wealth, power, knowledge, travel, etc. are all “meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14), therefore we must prioritize what we value in life and make time for the things that will aid us in getting where we want to go.
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). All abide means is simply “to be with” or “to live with,” which is how we achieve the “being” aspect of the Joy Model. We do this by studying the Bible, meditating/memorizing on the Word, prayer, silence/solitude, Christian camaraderie, fasting, and through music and nature.
“Understanding who you are–how God uniquely put you together–is critical to building a life of joy… Self-awareness reveals your passions, strengths, blind spots, and environments you thrive in, as well as your fears, selfishness, pride, and worries” (p. 100). When we determine these things, we unleash the power found in knowing how God strategically knit us together to ultimately be in service to others for His glory.
If your priority is joy but you can’t seem to grasp it, search your heart to see if money fears are standing in the way” (p. 125). If our priorities are wrong and we are not truly trusting God in every area of our lives, including in our finances, we will never attain the free and joyful life He has called us to. We must take courageous steps, trusting Him with our various treasures, in order to reach that outcome.
“God’s plan isn’t just to save us so we can go to heaven after we die. His plan is to enlist us in doing His work” (p. 127). What divine purpose we have when we see this way! There is so much more to life than working ourselves to death, literally. When we engage in His mission for us, we find the truest joy in finding meaning for our lives and pleasing Him while doing it. “God has already told us what to do. Our job is to figure out how to use our unique skills, resources, platform, and relationships to impact one or more of those assignments.” How, you might ask?
- Apply the skills that give you energy
- To a cause that makes God and you mad, sad, or glad
- In an organization with the right role and culture for you
- Do it all in Jesus’ name.” (p. 135)
“Relationships are hard. They take time. Conflict happens, and we too easily revert back to our win-lose approaches rather than win-win. But the time and effort you put into your relationships will contribute to the joy and fulfillment in your life (p. 158). Spadafora considers this element to perhaps be the most important in the determination of joy. No matter how much we engage in our calling, we won’t find the joy lasts until we learn how to balance nourishing our relationships with family and friends.
None of these elements are successful on their own, but a proactive pursuit of each of them will ultimately help lead you toward a more joyful, purposed life. I’ve never been one to believe there is an easy method to attaining anything as desirable as “true joy,” however I do believe that commitment to a thought-out guide such as that of The Joy Model will greatly propel someone in the right direction. If any of the above material stood out to you, or you have a propensity for feeling inexplicably unfulfilled, I highly encourage you to read this book for yourself. I have never experienced a joy the way I do in my relationship with Jesus Christ, and I genuinely want everyone I know to feel the same. While this book or the principles laid out within it are nowhere near an instant-fix to an unhappy life, they are a great start for those who are seeking more “peace, purpose, and balance.”
(A proper citation as a nod to my college professors’ relentless spiels about plagiarism)
Spadafora, J. (2016). The Joy Model: A Step-By-Step Guide to Peace, Purpose, and Balance. Nashville, TN: Nelson Books.