Random Blog Clay Feet: May 26, 2009
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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Joy or Fear

I am sensing one of my natural tendencies that much of the time keeps me focused in the wrong direction. It is the natural attraction toward thinking about fearful things, foreboding thoughts or scenarios about the future more than spending much needed effort and focus on developing joy strength within my own self and with others.

What I have learned, at least intellectually, is that the only real preparation for times of crisis when fear is overwhelming and unavoidable is the inner capacity and strength that only comes from joy training. That is the way the brain is created to operate. But ironically most Christians have been trained to assume just the opposite when it comes to preparing for trials. Somehow we have come to believe that dwelling on fear itself is supposed to get a person ready to successfully face events that induce fear in us. Thus the penchant present in my life to more easily think about fearful possibilities rather than exercising in joy building activities.

Of course all of this discussion is dependent on one understanding the true definition of joy as seen from the neurological standpoint of the nervous system. Joy creates that inner stamina, that endurance and strength and capacity that is so needed whenever the brain is exposed to trauma. Joy itself is the energizing, exhilarating sensation that the brain feels when someone else is genuinely glad to be with me, when I sense that I am very special in the eyes and heart of someone who really cares about me. It does not matter what emotions I may be experiencing at the time, if they are glad to be with me and share in my experiences then my brain will experience the effects and benefits of joy.

The side effects of joy is the stimulation of the growth of certain regions of the brain that are needed in order to process difficult situations more effectively. It is repeated experiences of joy that grow this important part of the brain that increases our capacity and maturity to face fear. So the best way that I can prepare for future trials and pain is to spend much more time and energy today on sharing joy with others, not in foreboding about future pain and suffering.

This is very clearly why Jesus spent so much time talking about joy just before His trial and crucifixion. He was not trying to distract Himself from the coming pain and suffering, He was simply following the principles that He Himself had created into the design of the human brain that He was now using. He was “topping off” all the joy that He had been exercising with His disciples for three and a half years to prepare Himself to face the events just before Him.

...fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

Yes, I have been learning more and more about the benefits of joy, my need for much more joy and the critical nature of how joy prepares one for dealing with suffering. But then when I look around at my relationships with those around me I see all too clearly that I really don't experience joy very much at all. I am not a source of joy to others and I am seldom experiencing joy in my own heart. As I observe the general trend of what occupies my imagination and thoughts, too much of my time is spent seeking happiness for myself instead of real joy for both myself and others.

It seems obvious that one of the best ways to experience joy is to choose to be a source of joy for someone else. That means that I need to be genuinely glad to be with them no matter what emotion they are experiencing presently. But in reality that may at times take supernatural desires and empowering, for I, just like most others, do not naturally feel like being glad to be with people who are not in turn making me feel good. I naturally gravitate toward people who are outgoing, affirming toward me and encouraging. But I find it much more difficult to be that kind of person for others. Therefore, my own joy strength and my own joy capacity is growing much slower than is needed. I am not feeling the increased inner strength from sharing joy with others in reality. I am not obeying the principles of reality and design hard-wired into my brain by my Creator. I am too often following the natural tendencies of my fallen nature in seeking feelings of fulfillment and pleasure for myself directly instead of learning to give myself away to be a source of life-giving joy for others who also need more joy strength.

So do I have a nice answer all in place for this situation? Not really. I am just expressing what I feel right now at this moment. Maybe I am hoping that in expressing it I can motivate myself in some way, though I am not sure how effective that really is. Or maybe I am secretly hoping that someone else will come along and motivate me with joy. I don't really know. I just know that I feel the need to express what is inside me at times even when it does not fit into the nice packages that are expected in most articles or discourses. I am just monologuing about what is going on inside my head for whatever reasons.