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)




About dougjohns

Doug Johns retired from ministry in Canada to devote more time to international work. Right now he pastors part time at the International Baptist Church in Bielefeld, Germany. He is a graduate of York Univ. (B.A.) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.). Doug is married to Yvonne and they have four grown children plus eight grandchildren. Doug has had significant experience as a Presbyterian Minister in Ontario, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and New Brunswick. He has served as Associate Pastor at West Congregational in Haverhill, Massachusetts; Doug is committed to international ministry in Romania; and he has taken leadership in Christian Camping as Executive Director of Camp Fireside, NH; Glen Mhor Presbyterian Camp, Ontario; Timberline Ranch, BC. .... avid baseball fan of the Toronto Blue Jays ... Managed American Legion Baseball Team out of Creston BC in North Idaho League. Doug is a serious runner with many international half-marathons completed over the last 6 years.
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2 Responses to the edgy side of joy – joy and risk are partners

  1. Heatherly says:

    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.

    • dougjohns says:

      Great point Heatherly, but I have to admit that sometimes in those situations my first reaction is to choose gloom instead of joy – what’s up with that?

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