The Silent Joy Killer We Don’t See Coming

There comes a point where we have to let God do what only He can do.

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My control freak tendency can be the biggest joy killer known to mankind. Ask me how I know.

Let’s go back thirteen years to one of the few occasions I actually released control. My husband and I stood on top of an inactive volcano in Maui, waiting for the sunrise. I planned this highlight of our honeymoon for months. We stood at 10,023 feet, and as the cloud cover around us turned bright shades of red and orange, our setting became other-worldly. I huddled next to my husband to shield my body from the crisp morning wind and yawned. 

While the sunrise was spectacular, the fun part was yet to come: a bike ride down to the bottom into the village below. Our group of about thirty people would each go at our own pace, stopping to enjoy sites and vistas along the way.

My husband and I had no idea what to expect, but this uncertainty was part of the beauty. We put on our helmets, climbed on our bikes, and let gravity do its work. As we descended, the sun illuminated parts of the valley that were shrouded by darkness on the drive up, revealing expansive farmland and lush valleys as far as we could see.


The Joy of Releasing Control

I hadn’t thought about our experience atop Mt. Haleakala in months. But the other day, God brought it to mind, and as I recollected those beautiful moments, I knew what he was trying to tell me.

Joy comes in letting go.

But there’s a flip side to this truth as well: the death of joy. The joy killer arises when I try to control outcomes.

In two months, my first book will launch into the world. It is both exhilarating and terrifying. Authors who paved the road before me often said the entire journey was a roller coaster of emotions, and the closer I get to the big day, the more I see how right they were.

But those moments of defeat and panic? They manifest during times when I try to micro-manage results, predict worst-case scenarios, and vex about the future. And while it’s important for us to work hard and put in the effort, there comes a point where we have to let God do what only he can do.

When we complete the assignments God’s given us, joy comes in surrendering the results to him.

He loves to surprise us. He delights in surpassing our expectations about how things will go. But often, our hand is clutched so tightly around what we think will happen we miss the beauty right in front of us. We miss God.

When my husband and I biked down the volcano, the only preview I had was pictures from magazines. But no 2D image could compare to the sights I saw, encompassing me from every direction. It was as though God was saying, “I made all of this just for you. Will you let me show you what’s around this next bend?”

My “yes” to his invitation was the fuel that propelled me forward. And by the time my husband and I reached the valley, my mind was reeling from the experience in the best possible way.


Expect His Best

We don’t serve a God who gives us second-rate gifts. He gave us perfection: his Son, the spotless Lamb whose body was broken for us. Do you think he’s going to start giving us second-best now?

Take a look at these words from Paul, who gave up the life he expected to follow God:

 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1:18-19 NIV

Paul goes on to say this power is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. Accessible to each one of us, and without end.

The Jews expected a King. But instead of giving them what they wanted, God gave them what they needed. A Savior. Redemption from sin.

They expected a man lying in shrouds of burial cloth. But instead, they found an empty grave.

Because he followed his plan rather than theirs, we now have access to the greatest gift: his Spirit. This unsurpassable power living in us. Unexpected, but perfect and full of joy.

Will you join me in holding our expectations a little more loosely today? Let’s be intentional about setting goals and doing the good work he’s called each of us to do. But let’s also trust him with the results.

When we do, he often takes our breath away. And our joy is made complete because we’re reminded it comes from him alone.

This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Abby McDonald.

Featured Image by Anton Repponen on Unsplash

The views and opinions expressed by Kingdom Winds Collective Members, authors, and contributors are their own and do not represent the views of Kingdom Winds LLC.

About the Author

Abby McDonald is a writer and speaker whose passion is to help women find the hope of Christ in the middle of life’s messes. She is the author of Shift: Changing Our Focus to See the Presence of God, and her work has been featured on Proverbs 31 Ministries, (in)Courage, Crosswalk, and more. Abby lives with her husband and three children western Maryland. You can connect with her at

  1. Mary Costello says:

    There is no such thing as a Joy killer.
    Joy is the deep seated Presence of Jesus within
    The enemy can steal or kill the fleeting
    Thing we call happiness, but not our joy.

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