About two years ago I heard for the first time about the so called joy center in our brain.1 It was fascinating for me to learn how important joy is for the healthy development of our brain and for the maturity of our character.2 This joy center is especially developed when we enjoy healthy and secure relationships. Our joy center grows always when we perceive that another person enjoys our company, when our presence brings a sparkle into the other person’s eyes. Normally this happens completely subconscious and therefore cannot be imitated. This joy flow starts in our right brain hemisphere, is expressed on our left half of the face, flows to the left half of the face of the other person and then to his right brain hemisphere. Our vis-à-vis sends the communication back on the same path. All this happens six times per second and is amplified the longer we look at each other.3 Wow!
Shortly after reading about this I had two opportunities to observe this sparkle: in the eyes of one of our friends in the village and in the face of the 3-year old daughter of my colleagues. And I noticed how much this warms our heart. Since then I have seen it in many faces and always rejoiced how wonderfully God has created us.
On this background I started to notice how often the Bible speaks about the importance of joy, about the joy in the Lord. In Nehemiah 8:10 we read “The joy of the LORD is your strength (your protection, your protecting wall).” During the last year I have often meditated about this verse and understood in a new way, that it is probably our joy of being together with Him, no matter what our circumstances. This gives us the strength and enables us to overcome difficult circumstances. This joy strength makes a huge difference whether we experience something as suffering or as trauma.
I find especially fascinating what Zephaniah 3:17 says: “For the LORD your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty savior. He will rejoice over you with great gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will exult over you by singing a happy song.” Is there a better description of God’s joy for being together with us? God has this sparkle in his eyes when he looks at us – no matter if we are doing well at the moment or not, whether we are successful or not, diligent or lazy. He rejoices over us because we are his beloved children. From my own experience I know how difficult it is sometimes to believe and accept this in our heart of hearts. We are deeply influenced by our society that is so achievement-oriented. Therefore it is all the more important to remind ourselves that God’s joy does not depend on what we do (our performance or accomplishments) but on who we are.
This is for us a two-fold invitation:
- Be more conscious about bringing joy to other people by showing them that we enjoy being together with them;
- Increase the sparkle to God’s eyes by spending time with him, and showing him that we enjoy his company.
When was it the last time that you looked at the Lord with sparkling eyes, rejoicing in his jubilation about you and jubilating back to him?