Joy. What is it?

Have you ever experienced it?

Is it the same as happiness?

Is it possible to have joy in the midst of difficult circumstances?

How do you get joy?

How do you keep joy?

What does joy feel like?

These are all really good questions. Joy, according to the Dictionary of Psychology, is a feeling of extreme gladness, delight, or exaltation of the spirit, arising from a sense of well-being or satisfaction; or a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. It would seem that joy is the same as happiness, but more intense. If that is true, it would be very hard to have joy in the midst of difficult circumstances, because who is happy with adversity? Getting joy would seem to be getting a lifestyle without conflict, and keeping joy would seem only possible when you maintain a lifestyle without conflict. One dictionary says it is a feeling of extreme happiness or cheerfulness, especially related to the acquisition or expectation of something good, like a child on Christmas morning.

In the book “Building Bounce,” one of the authors wrote, ”Life is hard. We all get overwhelmed at times. But some people seem to be able to handle hardship better than others…Thanks to the latest brain science, we now understand that there is a secret to emotional resilience. It is joy. The more joy you have, the more hardship you can handle.”  Dr. Wilder explains joy as, ”someone is glad to be with me.” We recognize this joy visually in the emotional (or right side) of our brain before we recognize it in the left side (or cognitive side) of the brain. How do we recognize it? Visually, by seeing someone’s smile, or the light in their eyes when they see us.

Joy is relational. The more healthy, strong, and safe the relationships we have, the more joy we will experience. The Bible declares again and again that the joy of the Lord is our Strength; He gives strength to the weak and power to the powerless; He is able to make us strong and steadfast; He is our joy. The Bible also talks repeatedly about how God makes His face to shine upon us. He connects with us emotionally. He smiles on us. He is glad to be with us.

Our brains have “circuits” that guide our relational connections with God and others. These circuits are formed and changed in relationships, and so they are called “Relational Circuits.” Relational Connection Joy (or Connection) is the experience of being in an attuned relational engagement with God, oneself, or another person, AND perceiving that they are glad to be with you.

Attunement is an especially important form of interpersonal, emotional connection that feels like “we are on the same page”–we feel seen and heard; someone correctly understands our internal experience, and joins us in the emotions we are experiencing. Someone genuinely cares about us and is glad to be with us.

Our minds and brains have been designed to live in a relational world where everything is in shalom; where everything is in the right relationship, at the right time, in the right place, at the right strength, and in the right amount for God and people. At the center of this shalom is our brain’s relational circuits. If we lose our peace, particularly in relationships, these relational circuits can start to shut down. With our vital relational circuits partly or deeply off, problems get bigger, and we can start to  treat people like objects. Our cravings become monsters, and we can deeply hurt those we love. We feel alone, disconnected, and purposeless.

The easiest way to know if your relational circuits (or RC’s) are on or off is to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Is the problem bigger than the person?
  • Do I really want to listen to what they are feeling or saying?
  • Is my mind “locked onto” something upsetting?
  • Do I just want to get away, fight, or freeze?
  • Am I more aggressively interrogating, judging or trying to fix others?
  • Do I even want to be connected with someone I usually like?

We can turn our relational circuits back on and regain shalom by deliberately focusing on appreciation/gratitude or having someone else “tune in” to us and how we’re feeling.

The Immanuel Lifestyle is a process that helps us to grow our emotional capacity to withstand adversity by helping us to grow our relational strengths. How do we do that? By helping to increase each person’s capacity to have an interactive relationship with God. It is this experiential connection with God that is the foundation for deep and lasting spiritual growth and maturity; for healing from painful experiences and life events; and for developing relationships with others and unity in the Body of Christ.

We use:

  • Knowledge-based teaching that is informed by an understanding of the brain
  • Experiential exercises to discover how relational connection occurs with God and others
  • Specific explanations and skills to intentionally increase understanding of and capacity for relational connection
  • Practical examples, demonstrations, and reflection on Immanuel as a lifestyle, with the foundation laid for Immanuel as an intervention & Immanuel as a prayer ministry.

 Immanuel Prayer offers a process that is very useful to help people connect to the Lord in a prayer ministry session. It is a process of connection personally and interactively with the Lord, and removing barriers and hindrances to an intimate, interactive lifestyle of connection with Him. The goal is to build and deepen a securely attached relationship with the Lord, one that increases our capacity to stay connected to Him even in difficult life situations or painful experiences.