the edgy side of joy – joy and risk are partners

Psychology Today recently published a commentary on an Ohio State University study which suggests that there is a dimension of joy, that by nature is antithetical to happiness, but which actually enriches that which it could at any moment destroy. I find this fascinating. I think the Apostle Paul knew this truth long before Ohio State and Psychology Today figured it out.

Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, co-author of the research, and Associate Professor of Communication at O.S.U., studied fans of two college football teams as they watched the teams’ annual rivalry game on television.

You don’t want to be in a great mood during the whole game if you really want to enjoy it,” she said. “We found that negative emotions play a key role in how much we enjoy sports.

Jeff Wise writing for PT expands on this:

The subjects logged their perception of their teams’ chance of victory. It turned out that fans who thought the game was the most enjoyable were those who were convinced at some point during the game that their team would lose – but then watched as the team turned around and managed to win.

And so he begins to build the theory:

 “the pursuit of unalloyed pleasure is a doomed undertaking. We can’t    really derive any enjoyment from life unless we are willing to admit some hint of fear and the possibility of disappointment. Pure pleasure-seeking quickly becomes deeply unsatisfying, which can lead us to seek even more pleasure, and more dissatisfaction, in a spiraling vicious circle that leads to endlessly unsatisfying indulgence.”


Back to the Bible: Paul is the author of his own study on the psychology of joy. In Philippians chapter one he understands that his current jail time confinement provides just one more opportunity for increased gospel proclamation – so he rejoices. Though his rivals ridicule his predicament, and take personal advantage of Paul’s ‘dungeon down time’, the great preacher calls for continued and repeated joy from himself and his followers (Philippians 1:18, 2:18, 3:1, and 4:4).

Paul ‘lived on the edge’. He risked his life countless times – willingly. His list in 2 Corinthians 11 is intriguing but humbling – comfort wise we live in another world from the one which Paul experienced. The guy who writes about joy lived deep in the swamp of what we would name ‘doom and gloom’. … prison, repeated stoning, floggings and beatings, multiple shipwrecks, sleeplessness, hunger, persecution, running for his life … hardly a ‘top 10’ happiness list!

And Paul learned it from his master Jesus: “who for the joy set before him, [Jesus] endured the cross, scorning its shame.” (Hebrews 12:2) Jesus warned his followers that walking his way could indeed be ‘a walk on the wild side’! “I send you out like sheep among wolves.” (Matthew 10:16)



2 thoughts on “the edgy side of joy – joy and risk are partners

  1. Joy is such a gift because we have the ability to and many times are required to choose it in the face of less than ideal circumstances. The circumstances in which I’ve learned the beauty of choosing joy were (are) painful, but I would not erase them from my life if it meant not knowing how to find joy.

    Great post.

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