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


Joy: Jesus’ Plan for Us Together, Before Creation

Joy in the Journey - Emboidery PandaSo where’s joy to be found if today is mixed with soul numbing routine, character testing, and the uncertainty of confusion and conflict? For me, greater joy is not found in the absence of those things, but in recognizing that I have the opportunity to walk with Jesus through them in fellowship with Him.

Charles H. Spurgeon’s “Tested and Battered” devotional on Job 14:14 caught my attention recently. He comments on several reasons for being joyful in our earthly life which usually includes suffering of mind and body, and testing of character. But the one of Spurgeon’s list that got me thinking again that everything on the path of obedience following Jesus Christ is meaningful is this one:

“We would not have full fellowship with Christ if we did not sojourn for a while below, for he was baptized with the baptism of suffering among men, and we must be baptized with the same if we would share his kingdom. Fellowship with Christ is so honorable that sorest sorrow is a light price by which to procure it.”

Phil 3-10 agodman_comThese comments by Spurgeon seem to turn on its head the notion that the only reason Christ entered our world is to save you and me from suffering and death. Just as Christ created our world and mankind for fellowship with him (with who he is in his heart of hearts), and just as he planned and spoke into being a man and woman whose human nature was fitted to the one he would want to embrace for himself, so now, as we live out our lives on an earthly plane, we live them out as he chose to live it himself (in the only way he could live it given who he is in his basic nature as the Son of God). His plan, or design, for our life preceded the actual execution of the plan in the creation moment. And that plan arose out of who he is personally, and what he could choose to experience himself. There is such Glory that we share in this that it’s hard to put it in words (Psalm 8)!

Colossians 1 16 pinterestYes, as the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 8:9, Jesus did become poor for our sake that we might become rich. It is proper to draw principles for living from such mercy and grace. But, to draw the greatest joy from that truth, we must come to realize that it was not just for my sake or your sake. Christ’s choice to live among us was clearly also and primarily so for his own sake, or his glory in other words – that he might fulfill the creation purpose he designed into everything (see Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 1:4-12 and Colossians 1:13-24).

Yes, Spurgeon is right. We would not have full fellowship with Christ if we did not sojourn for awhile below. I for one find great joy in knowing that I have the privilege of sojourning here as he himself once chose to sojourn.

To enjoy the entire devotional referenced above, go to the following link: https://www.truthforlife.org/resources/daily-devotionals/5/6/0/

Further teaching to inspire confidence in what God is doing with us today…

“Always guard against self-chosen service for God. Self-sacrifice may be a disease that impairs your service. If God has made your cup sweet, drink it with grace; or even if He has made it bitter, drink it in communion with Him. If the providential will of God means a hard and difficult time for you, go through it. But never decide the place of your own martyrdom, as if to say, ‘I will only go to there, but no farther.’” – Oswald Chambers [From <https://utmost.org/the-supreme-climb/> ]

“Not only is all your affliction momentary, not only is all your affliction light in comparison to eternity and the glory there, but all of it is totally meaningful.  Every millisecond of your pain from the fallen nature or fallen man, every millisecond of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory you will get because of that. I don’t care if it was cancer or criticism. I don’t care if it was slander or sickness. It wasn’t meaningless. It’s doing something! It’s not meaningless. Of course you can’t see what it’s doing. Don’t look to what is seen. When your mom dies, when your kid dies, when you’ve got cancer at 40, when a car careens into the sidewalk and takes her out, don’t say ‘That’s meaningless!’ It’s not. It’s working for you an eternal weight of glory. Therefore, therefore, do not lose heart. But take these truths and day by day focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God and preach his word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and care for.” ― John Piper [From “Though You Slay Me” – Shane & Shane featuring John Piper | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyUPz6_TciY&list=PL08dGtQFa7F2SjbErTvmO4xbehxdFq49P&t=0s&index=1]