If joy had a theme song it might be “Gonna Fly Now” from the movie Rocky. The embattled prizefighter conquers the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum. With outstretched arms pointed to heaven, he looks out at the city skyline and declares victory over adversity, challenge, and his humble beginnings. That iconic movie scene is timeless; it is joy personified on the big screen. Here is a man who made a choice to stay in the fight; he saw it through, knowing it would not be the last of life’s hurdles, knowing he could lose. In much the same way, joy is a choice. It’s a promise we choose to believe that come what may, it’ll be OK.
Joy is the difference between getting out of bed to face the day or hiding, buried under the covers. Joy is getting up from a scraped knee after falling down. It’s the difference between being a pessimist and an optimist. It is seeing life beyond death in the most trying circumstances. It’s embracing and accepting that life is not only about loving and laughing, but sometimes, well, longsuffering. All of these things require a conscious choice because joy is not passive. It’s not for punks; it’s an act of faith.
Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
This verse reminds us that Jesus endured. He endured for the sake of righteousness, but he also endured the rough terrain that sometimes comes with the path of life. He endured the mistreatment and judgment of others. He endured disappointment in the leadership at that time and ultimately, a betrayal of a close friend who sat at his table. He endured the overwhelming demands of his job, and the countless people who sought his help. He endured naysayers and critics. He endured the physical toll on his body as he marched to Calvary. Running on empty, tired, fatigued, and even afraid, what might he have told himself? Did he choose joy in the most awful of circumstances? In the Garden of Gethsemane, it appears as though he did. He whispers a prayer of surrender and makes a choice not once, but twice! He chooses joy (Mark 14, Matthew 26). Like Rocky at the top of those stairs, he’s on his feet, ready to complete his assignment and face his enemies.
One of many great things about joy is it’s a filling station for the empty vessel, the spirit running on fumes. Joy is not about looking on the bright side; it’s carrying a light on the inside when it’s dark. It’s the super glue for shattered pieces, a sealant for the crevices of a broken heart. It is greater than happiness or sadness. If you’re reading this and there’s something weighing you down, throw it overboard, offload it. If it’s slowing you down, speed by it on your way to joy. Joy is a choice, so choose it.