Unbridled Joy

Recently my sometimes self-declared identity as a recovering pessimist is finding new energy – in the recovery process. The help, coming from Relational Wisdom 360 (https://rw360.org/), is providing a wonderful source of new insights into how to live whole, with all the dimensions of my being (spirit, body, and soul [psyche & emotions]) coming into sync with God’s design.

Often a lingering, painful hunger for joy

A pessimist often experiences a deep, painful hunger for joy. In fact, he can convince himself that, except on rare occasions, no such experience is possible this side of heaven. The problem, of course, is related to his understanding of joy and what words might capture its essence.

Recovering pessimists hunger after that happiness with life that propels us out of bed with the elated exclamation, “I can’t wait to get started on what just has to be a good, fun and thrilling day.” Instead of worry and fear over what the next moments might hold, we feel starved for inner calm and hopefulness that assures us of conquest over the darkness.

Toward a new understanding of joy

A new understanding of joy is taking hold of me, thanks to resources from RW 360. On page 15 of Bradberry and Greaves’ book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Julia West’s chart of basic emotions itemizes words related to three levels of intensity in feeling those emotions.

As I analyzed the chart above I noted several things:

  • The “happy” category could be labeled “joy.”
  • The vertical range of intensity in feelings of joy can be expressed in many different feeling words (other than “happy,” or “joyful”); and they can describe a day or multiple days of emotional experiences.
  • Perhaps better than the vertical intensity scale, the horizontal range of feelings can describe what I’ve experienced seasonally throughout life.

What I’m so thankful for today is that my Gracious Master is transforming me from right to left. Yes, I have experienced seasons of shame, fear and anger, but more and more, the movement of my life is toward joy, mixed with, but moving through sadness. Jesus did say that He, the Good Shepherd, had come to give his followers abundant life, not death (John 10:7-10).

When I pray today against whatever thief would steal away my joy, kill off my hope, and destroy my faith, I remember that it’s not only a feeling of exhilaration or passionate, fierce determination the enemy would take from me, but a season of life being filled also with mellowness, tenderness, contentment, glad moments, cheerful smiles, good deeds, relief from stress, and satisfaction in a small job done.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

– Jesus Christ, John 10:10 ESV


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