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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson

(Foreboding) Joy

Photo by Peter Conlan on Unsplash

The closer I get to my book launch, the more I’ve been aware of these weird little triggers of mild anxiety. An irritating undercurrent of fear. And maybe this should be expected. Predictable butterfly nerves and excitement of a first-time experience. But I don’t know. It feels wrong somehow. Like something I ought to notice, and question.

I’ve been reading John Mark Comer’s Live No Lies, which is making me extra aware of my vulnerability to deception. Recognize and Resist the Three Enemies That Sabotage Your Peace. The world, the flesh and the devil. Yes, the enemies are real.

But this is real, too:

Jesus already blew the head off my snake.

And so recently I’ve been revisiting an old practice, which I originally started a couple of decades back—naming the lies and writing them on index cards, and then fighting back with a scripture truth.

For example. A few weeks ago I began to notice the insidious return of my nemesis P’s. Namely Perfectionism and People-pleasing (which Brené Brown says are directly related…more from her in a minute) along with the P of Pressure. And of course, if my plan is to faithfully share my own story of freedom from those P’s—and if I do indeed have an enemy (or three)—I might have easily spotted this particular attack from a mile away. And probably did. My first index card reads as follows—

The Lie: P’s

The Truth: For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1 CSB).

Declare: I AM FREE!

I have another card related to Time Pressure. Recognizing my tendency toward anxiety related to expectations of accomplishing a book launch and a “speaking tour” according to a perceived timeline.

The Lie: You’re running out of time.

The Truth: But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day (2 Peter 3:8 NIV).

Declare: THE TIMELINE IS HIS! (And so is this entire project.)

As I become aware of these annoying anxieties, I am quick to assess. What’s the cause?

The P’s?

Time pressure?

Or something else?

And as it turns out, there has indeed been something else. But what to call it?

For a week or so I’d been trying to put my finger on this other anxiety, trying to name it. Asking God for clarity. Seeking to understand. And then, this past weekend, Saturday morning, I was out for a run, listening to a podcast*…when the Spirit gave me a word through an unexpected, almost offhand comment. A podcast listener was telling her story. She said something about being Scandinavian…and she talked about how her particular heritage tends to deal with a particular fear. She called it


And I knew in an instant.

That was it.


I’ve already mentioned this other book I’ve been reading, Brené Brown’s Atlas of the Heart. So. Right there in my currently bookmarked section (the last words I’d recently been reading) Brown described this oddest emotion:

Foreboding Joy

I’m totally serious. I immediately went back to reread it:

“When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding. No emotion is more frightening than joy, because we believe if we allow ourselves to feel joy, we are inviting disaster. We start dress-rehearsing tragedy in the best moments of our lives in order to stop vulnerability from beating us to the punch. We are terrified of being blindsided by pain, so we practice tragedy and trauma. But there’s a huge cost.”


Oh my goodness. God is so Good!

There’s so much I could write about this. I think about my own ancestry—78% Scandinavian, according to my sister’s DNA results. And whether or not there’s an actual heritage of foreboding, I am without a doubt that too-serious child who grew up to be an overly cautious adult. Have I ever truly known freedom of JOY?

All week I’ve been delighting in this sweetest practice.

Naming it: Foreboding.

Reclaiming it: Joy.

One night, I even dreamt it. Once, twice, three times—in my sleep, God showed me what to do. Reject the fear. Receive back my Father’s JOY.

And then yesterday morning, I opened my Bible to my place in John’s Gospel, and I read these very words of Jesus. Listen:

“Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me…

“As the Father has loved me, I have also loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.

“I have told you these things so that my JOY may be in you and your JOY may be complete(!!)”

(John 15:4-5; 9-11—emphasis mine)

I pick up a card and I write it down—



*Susie Larson Live with Pamela Nelson

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