Words of Hope: Relational Joy

I read recently that researchers have discovered a connection between relational joy in your fifties and wellbeing and flourishing health in your eighties.  

I think of Dad’s life and wonder how much relational stress contributed to his health. Dad loved people deeply and I know it grieved him when a close and trusted friend was disloyal. Dad said he believed this worry and sorrow burrowed inside him. He asked me to consider my level of stress. Whether it was true or not, Dad believed his stress and worry contributed to his cancer. This is always challenging for me to say. Logically, I find more research on environmental triggers, genetics, circadian rhythm disruption, diet, etc. The list of reasons for cancer are endless. But as I am in my fifties, I pay even more attention to the importance of Dad’s warning words to abandon worry and stress.  

Coming out of the Covid year of fear in which I did not know if NBC could navigate an entire season in lockdown, I can feel the effects of this in my body. How much more intrusive are relational cares that burrow down into our very being? 

Relational joy, according to research, is very specific. It is living with delight, gratitude, and appreciation for the beloved others in our lives. It is absolute freedom from bitterness or resentment.  

Those who live with relational joy have trained themselves to experience daily moments of awe, curiosity, love, and joy. Their thoughts are full of gratitude for life, for others, and for the present moment.  

Dad worked to live this way. I believe this was why he lived with stage four cancer so long. He learned ways to celebrate life even in hardship. He learned to be at peace even in crisis. He learned to find moments of awe even in the mundanity of illness. He learned, even in heartbreak, to live in joy.  

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Phil. 4:6-7