Joy #2 – The Background on Joy

The purpose of the book (The Joy Model: A Step-by-Step Guide to Peace, Purpose and Balance  ) is “to help frustrated Christians become joyful followers of Christ”. The purpose of the blog is slightly different: “To provide fresh, practical ideas that encourage people to re-think Jesus and start living in ways that bring them and the world greater joy.”

Here’s the backstory on how I got into this theme of joy:  For the last 11 years, I have been a life coach with the Halftime Institute.  We help successful people in mid-life transition figure out God’s calling for their second half. Over the years, I have asked people why they want to know their calling. In other words, “What do you hope to experience at a heart level if you knew and were living out the reason God put you on this planet?”  The most common answers were peace, fulfillment, contentment and joy.

You see, people aren’t searching for their calling just for the heck of it.  Their ultimate goal is joy and they think discovering and embracing their calling is the ticket to it.  The reason they are now target-locked on their calling is because they’ve tried everything else under the sun to experience joy (money, romance, hobbies, stuff, raising the perfect kids,  job titles) and — after having experienced all of those things — they all come up just a little short. Those things can deliver short term happiness for sure, but not long-term joy.  There’s a difference.

Don’t get me wrong.  When you are in your calling — when your skills and your passions are fully aligned with God’s plan for your life — that’s a wonderful place to be in life.

But something odd — yet familiar to us all — will happen once the newness of being in your calling fades:  It starts to get stale.  I’ve experienced it personally and seen it in many of the people I have coached over the years. In my mid-40’s, I found that the way I was leveraging my skills and applying it to the things I was most passionate about were perfectly aligned. Everything I was doing with my life seemed right to me and it was joyful.  But slowly over time, the newness faded and I noticed a bit of “same ‘ole, same ‘ole” slipping into my life.

I think what I was actually experiencing in the early days of being in my calling was happiness not joy.  Happiness is fleeting and circumstantial.  When all is well, we’re happy. But when boredom, disruption, and discomfort rear their ugly heads – and they always do – the happiness evaporates.

Joy is different. It transcends circumstances and can even continue to exist in the middle of pain, tragedy and trauma.  Looking back at the early days of pursuing my calling, I realize I had discovered just one of the two dimensions of joy (i.e., Doing something with my skills, passions, time, money and relationships that were consistent with why God created me), but I was missing another dimension of joy:  It’s not just about what we are going to do, but who did God originally make us to be… and who is He continuing to shape us to be.  The people who I have coached over the years who I believe are truly experiencing joy have paid attention to both the Doing and Being of their lives.

There are two questions we have to answer on this Being dimension: 1. Who is God? and 2. Who am I?

This is deep stuff here.  Joy is rooted in our being.  It’s spiritual and it’s connected to our paradigm about life and our attitude toward it. What we choose to do with our life then flows out if that. My encouragement is to find 45 minutes in the next week to settle down your heart and mind to wrestle with, journal on and research those 2 questions.  Don’t slip into lazy “Sunday school answers.” Challenge your deeply held assumptions. Dig deep on the truth of both of those questions.

In my younger days, I floated through life with hunches and opinions about those questions. If that sounds like you, challenge yourself  to get the facts and explore your heart. Surf the internet.  Pray. Talk to a friend whose faith you admire. Read the bible.  (Here’s one online ) Getting solid answers to those two questions is a necessary first step to lasting joy.

Enjoy the ride!

Jeff Spadafora