canada africa partner reservation Randy Frazee on difference between joy and ‘toxic positivity’

Randy Frazee on difference between joy and ‘toxic positivity’

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Randy Frazee
Randy Frazee | Courtesy of Randy Frazee

When Randy Frazee read statistics revealing that Kansas, the state where he pastors Westside Family Church, ranked last when it comes to those struggling with mental health and access to adequate care, he knew something needed to change.

“Kansas City is where Dorothy said to Toto, ‘We’re not in Kansas anymore’ when they’re in Oz,” he said. “That is a universal phrase that refers to a familiar place that is safe … but here I am in a place that isn’t Kansas anymore. Kansas is not in Kansas anymore. It’s a real struggle for people. I felt like what people really need is something that they can trust, and a biblically based response was really what I wanted to offer up.”

Frazee, who has served as a pastor for nearly 30 years, is gearing up for the release of his new book, The Joy Challenge: Discover the Ancient Secret to Experiencing Worry-Defeating, Circumstance-Defying Happiness, mined directly from the principles of joy from Paul’s book on Philippians. The book includes a 25-day challenge helping readers recall happy memories, practice unconditional love, maintain a positive mindset and overcome fear.

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“People who struggle with joy almost chronically are finding their joy levels increasing quite dramatically over the 25 days,” he said. “What’s really exciting is that if you continue with it, it’s going to go up even after that. So I encourage people not just to read The Joy Challenge book, but to take the challenge itself if your goal is not just to get smarter on joy, but to see your joy go up.”

One of the book’s central themes is how understanding and expressing love languages ​​(popularized in Gary Chapman’s 1992 book The Five Love Languages) can bring unexpected joy. Frazee highlighted how Paul’s teachings in Philippians 1 encourage learning how to love, which, in turn, increases joy.

“It’s counterintuitive for people,” he explains, “but we need to become fluent in how to love each other. That expression of love is extremely important, and then what you find is that when you learn how to love, it increases your joy at the same time.”

Frazee cited a Harvard study that began in 1938 and tracked participants over 85 years which revealed that loving relationships, regardless of financial status or power, were the key predictors of happiness. “It’s about creating attachment,” he added, “both with God and others. Loneliness, on the other hand, triggers survival mode, leading to stress and health issues.”

The Joy Challenge
The Joy Challenge | Amazon

“Whenever there’s attachment to God or attachment to others, our joy level goes up,” he said.

Frazee warned against what he termed “toxic positivity” — increasingly popular in mainstream self-help circles — which he said encourages a facade of happiness even when circumstances don’t support it.

“The definition of joy doesn’t have anything to do with an external front of looking like you are joyful in your Instagram posts,” he said. “Rather, it’s an inner sense of contentment and purpose … you can have inner contentment and an inner sense of purpose even if your external circumstances are dire, if you’ve just lost a loved one. God has given you that, that emotion of melancholy to help you grieve through the process.

It doesn’t mean you don’t have joy; it just means that you’re in a season where there’s a real challenge. So the joy challenge rooted in Scripture is a far cry from the toxic positivity that all of us feel that we need to present on Facebook and TikTok and Instagram.”

For those looking to make tangible shifts toward joy, Frazee also encourages the practice of “joy conditioning,” where individuals recall positive memories to strengthen them.

“I’ve surrounded myself with pictures of people who believed in me,” the pastor said. “Recalling these memories increases my sense of joy, even during difficult days.”

“When I remember (good memories), what ends up happening is that it strengthens that memory and it increases my sense of joy,” he said. “It’s impossible to be in a state of appreciation and a state of fear at the same time.”

He also emphasized the importance of rhythm and balance in life, including sleep, meditation, prayer and exercise. Other times, he said, medical intervention might be necessary for those facing clinical depression.

“I’ve gone through two seasons of genuine clinical depression myself in my 63 years of life, and in both instances, I needed medical intervention to make that work out,” he said. “I think we overmedicate and overdiagnose in the United States. But when it comes to genuine depression, you’ve got to get professional help, and know that sometimes you’ll have to supplement, at least for a period of time, with the proper medication.”

While cultivating joy requires discipline, it is possible, Frazee added. “I want people to know that when you take these ancient principles in Scripture and put them under the microscope of all the new discoveries we’ve made in neuroscience … over the last 10 to 15 years through brain imaging, it’s confirming that what Paul is recommending actually does work.”

“If you’re thinking, ‘I can’t possibly change,’ science tells you you absolutely can, and the Scriptures have been telling you that all along.”

The Joy Challenge: Discover the Ancient Secret to Experiencing Worry-Defeating, Circumstance-Defying Happiness will be released on May 7.

Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: [email protected]