I didn’t realize that I suffered from joy foreboding until I read the phrase in Brené Brown’s book. Even then, I didn’t realise that I was actually suffering with the handicap until my husband pointed it out to me (two, three, okay, twenty times – or they get presented to me by someone different than my husband – sorry, M).
Basically, Brown describes joy as one of the most terrifying emotions we can experience as humans.
Pretty radical, hey? But when you think about it, she is right on: as soon as joy enters our world – though some of us are more resilient or learn different ways to deal – we fear that it will end at any moment.
There is no guarantee that the sunshine will last longer than a second, or that a baby’s smile won’t turn to anger, or that a job opportunity won’t disappear or the house you desire won’t come off the market.
Joy is no Everlasting Gobstopper.
In my case, I find that as soon as I begin to have hope that M and I might have a nice and homey condo, or that I might have a job that I enjoy, or I might be happy with my level of physical fitness, or I have an hour or two of reading to do, that a kind of dismal gloom enters the picture. Suddenly I’m worried that the place we find will be terrible or that I won’t find a job, or that I am not working out enough or that I will never read enough books. It’s totally paralyzing. Most of the time, I live in fear that any kind of joy will disappear.
In fact, I’ve essentially come to conclude that it’s useless to hope for joy because it won’t last. I end up living with hardly any joy at all, content to live without it because zero expectations equals zero disappointment, right?
It’s crazy to think that there’s some kind of quotient or formula to life – that if we just perfect our posture, we will get to experience all the joy and none of the heartbreak. Or, in my case – live with no joy and risk no heartbreak.
In response to this dilemma, Brené proposes gratitude and I think she’s onto something. When there is joy, we have the option to lean gratefully towards it rather than backing away. We can take the courageous step of letting our fear become an opportunity for trust, whispering that all shall be well (in the words of my dear sweet Julian).
Joy is terrifying, but what’s more terrifying is living in perpetual gloom.
The Lord did not make us to be unhappy, but our world does not permit us to live in joy all the time – yet. In this meantime though, we can choose the joy that is in our reach, be grateful for the Lord who gives it to us, and trust that He cares for us entirely. He will not give or take from us more than we can bear. Heartbreak is part of the deal – for now – but being willing to settle for gloom is a recipe for a foreboding heart.