The Importance of Joy
By Marlene Houk
“And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” John 17:13
The Other Half of Church, is a book about combining “brain science with the Bible to identify how to overcome spiritual stagnation by living a full-brained faith.” The book discusses “the four ingredients necessary to develop and maintain a vibrant transformational community where spiritual formation occurs, relationships flourish, and the toxic spread of narcissism is eradicated.” One of those four ingredients is joy and this article summarizes chapter three entitled, Joy: The Face of Jesus That Transforms.
Joy is influenced most profoundly by our right brain. While our left brain uses “logical thinking, problem-solving, strategies, and language,” our right brain leads the way. The right side of our brain is the fast track, processing at 6 times per second, and the left side is the slow track at 5 times per second. Our right brains control our relationships (including with God), emotions (including joy), character growth, and identity. The author says, “If we want to grow and transform our character into the character of Jesus, we must involve activities that stimulate and develop the right brain.” Since the “right-brain runs at the speed of joy,” restoring this emotion becomes critical to all learning.
We learn the truth about God using our left brain, but our relationship with God leads our learning. That is what the authors meant by the book title. We offer church members much information, but often we fail to encourage the use of the right brain; the character formation. We emphasize “beliefs, doctrine, willpower, and strategies but neglect right-brain loving attachments, joy, emotional development, and identity.” Using only information hinders experiencing God’s love in distress. Both the left and right brains should synchronize information growing in the relationship. “When joy is low, our brain is not in a state that responds well to spiritual practices, including reading the Bible.” We need joy, relationships, identity, and community. When we restore these, including joy, acting more like Jesus naturally becomes possible.
In Chapter Three, the book explores the richness of joy and its benefits. Joy reduces the trauma of recovery and calms our painful emotions. Jesus exampled the idea of looking beyond our circumstances to the joy of God’s presence in Hebrews 12:2 when it says in the middle of the verse, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…”
Maintaining relationships when in trouble brings joy from the comfort of our friend’s presence. God, Himself shows great joy in being with us, and this creates a bond between us and Him. Likewise, the pleasure of connecting with our friends mixes with the negative emotions, taking the edge off the pain. The comfort we feel in their presence helps to maintain our relationship during crises which brings joy to help diffuse sorrow.
The Other Half of Church offers beginning exercises in restoring joy. The first step is silent gratitude by feeling a grateful memory bodily and connecting to God through it. The second is to improve our relational skills by seeking community and bonding together. Practicing joy, diffuses negative emotions, heals our trauma, and redirects our steps toward God. When we experience Christ-like joy in our relationships we realize its importance in our healing and spiritual transformation.
Marlene is an author and teacher of Bible studies. She may be reached at Bible167@gmail.com
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