Ever stood peering over your sleeping child awash with an ache of love so fierce you can barely tolerate or believe it? Then, suddenly, your joy is shoved aside by a terrorizing inner questioner, “What if something happens to her?”
It’s a living nightmare. And rude fear-rousing assault attacks us with alarming regularity.
Brene Brown speaks of “foreboding joy” as an armor tactic we natively employ in just such vulnerable moments.
You know, when you experience something splendid and within 5 seconds that splendid has turned sour? Hostile forces of rust, demolition, and vandalizing graffiti shove their way into our minds with all the “what-iffing” that might come our way.
We protect ourselves, or make an attempt, from real pain that will eventually come as we well know, by creating a false pain that ironically “squanders all the joy” of our ordinary moments which comprise our actual lives.
She notes, and I know lots of folks who can nod knowingly with heavy, harsh-experienced hearts, that there is nothing we can actually do to firewall ourselves from the scorching blazes of sorrow that visit unbidden in our lives beforehand.
Labor as we will, none of us will ever effectively reinforce our fragile inner lives from the demolition that comes when we get an unwanted phone call, diagnosis, or notification of the loss of someone precious to us. Unless of course we shut down everything inside us entirely and refuse to love, appreciate, or delight in anything or anyone.
Aches will come. Losses will be sustained. Ruptures will interrupt. And mercies will meet us when they do. But we sure needn’t permit the satisfying moments we do get be torched and singed with tomorrow’s ailments.
We aren’t destined to be bullied by worries, barked at by impending dangers, or barged in by the rude house guests from the Gloom-Anticipation family. There is something we can do.
Brene Brown points to the research.
I note that her research is a couple of millennia slow in corroborating the instructions of God’s breathed words to us in Scripture. But let’s not be picky or snarky.
Her research based advice, plagiarized unwittingly, or knowingly (who knows?) from the Bible is simply:
That’s the antidote.
Not have an attitude of gratitude, thankfully. But practice it.
If having an attitude of gratitude were the requirement, we’d all be doomed. Attitudes are hard to sustain.
If we were merely subject to our thoughts and emotions as a hulking but dying oak tree is to a gust of toppling winds, then we must simply brace ourselves for disappointments and travails, whether actual (and there are plenty) or imagined (there are way more of these!) and wait to be blown over against our will.
But she insists that folks who don’t have their joy hi-jacked by terrorizing thoughts of danger ahead in those very moments of joy, contentment, or appreciation are those who regularly and actively PRACTICE GRATITUDE. Even while they are anxious!
Of course, those of you who’ve resonated with Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts realize this is precisely what she did and urges. She recounts to an interviewer:
“One of my friends, another homeschooling mom, had dared me to write down a thousand things I loved. And as I started to do this, I realized, “I’m writing down a thousand ways God loves me. I’m counting all the ways God loves me.” It began to profoundly change my life. I realized that joy is a function of gratitude and gratitude is a function of perspective. No matter what the situation was, could I change my perspective and see that there is always, always, always something to be grateful for? I had struggled a lot with anxiety and realizing that you can’t simultaneously feel anxiety and gratitude. Sometimes we need… sometimes there’s medications that we need to help us with anxiety, but sometimes the answer to some anxiety can be the adoration of Christ. Could I live in this posture of constant gratitude really, as a weapon to fight back worry and fear and anxieties? It profoundly changed my life...”
Want to Stop Frittering Away Joy?
So, want to stop frittering away the momentary joys and small moments of pleasure and delight that come into your life? Want to have a plan of attack when your relief at realizing how well your job is going is sidled by a rude whisper of what will happen if the economy tanks because of the newly imposed tariffs and your business dries up, and you are penniless and destitute and a failure?
Why not practice with Jeremiah, “calling to mind” in the moment when you feel crushed, “God’s past faithfulness”, so you are “not consumed?” Why not heed the Apostle Paul and “devote yourselves to prayer being watchful and thankful” or “rejoice in the Lord always” AS a safeguard to you. Or try “presenting your requests WITH thanksgiving” with the expectation that peace will come along with Christ’s fear-abolishing repose.
It is impossible to simultaneously experience fear and gratitude. So when those rude thoughts of foreboding crash into the middle of a joy, practice gratitude.
Literally, in the moment of fear, recite to Christ a litany of what you are glad for, what has pleased you, what’s been given, how you and yours have been helped, and how frequently you have been delivered and sustained.
Christ himself has sanctioned it. The saints have always practiced it. And now, we are assured, even the research confirms it.
So no reason at all not to make it as ordinary a practice as your morning toast and avocado spread with a green smoothie chock full of kale, almond milk, chia seeds, and banana (so pedestrian! but sweet), and a hefty bowl of steel cut oatmeal left soaking in your Japanese rice cooker overnight accompanied by raisins, cinnamon, sea-salt and just a dash of shredded coconut.
Add to that, the regular hydration of gratitude to Christ, spoken aloud, or uttered in the secrecy of your heart, or scrawled furiously in a journal, and you might just find looming fear and barking worry, being shooed off your life’s front porch by the recognition of a strong mercy that forbids us be consumed.
Do it as a weapon in the moment that fear tries to mug you.
Practice thanking Christ for what has happened when thoughts accost you with what might happen.
Insist, when assailed with the taxation “of the forethought of grief” on recounting the surplus of past provisions, protections, and timely deposits of cheering aid.
Let’s actively practice gratitude together.
Let’s banish the marauders of the daily joys Christ keeps insisting to impart to us, because he can’t help himself from his frequent practice of “giving us most when we deserve it least.”
Contact Eric Youngblood, pastor of Rock Creek Fellowship on Lookout Mountain, at firstname.lastname@example.org