Choosing Joy


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Henry Nouwen once made this comment about joy that has stayed with me. Nouwen said, “We have to choose joy… and keep choosing it.”

Joy isn’t necessarily a byproduct to a life well lived. It is a conscious choice to be open to the gift of life and the presence of God. This is a challenge. But it’s also an opportunity.

This season of life has proven to be a little stressful lately. I’ve always been one of those odd souls who internalize things. Actually, EVERYTHING. Anyone else have this annoying habit?

My mind races around various thoughts and ideas and worries and hypotheticals that haven’t even happened, but they could. Anxiety is like the alarm you keep hitting the snooze button on. Until it’s turned off, it keeps on chiming.

Stress makes it difficult to find joy. Life might be good and we’re living thankfully, but the stress keeps raising doubts and struggles, rearing its ugly head during our daily happenings. And living without joy is not a way to be fully aware and alive and in tune with your life.

There are antidotes to the causes of stress. We can talk about it. We can pray. We can give ourselves some space to rethink and heal and slow down. But it isn’t until we recognize it and claim it that we can begin to live with it.

This is where joy comes in. We don’t just have joy when things are good and easy and stress-free. If that were the case, I doubt any of us would be joyful very often.

Joy is a choice. We get to choose it. The question, I suppose, is will we make that choice?

I love that part in the book of Deuteronomy where Moses presents an invitation to the people of Israel. He tells them it’s time for them to make a choice.

“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Interestingly, the concept of a “choice” in Hebrew had to do with making the very best decision one could. To choose, was to say, this is the very best out of all the best options I could make.

Whether we realize it or not, we live with this kind of intentionality. It’s why we opt for Starbucks over gas station coffee, or why we select the clothes we do in the morning, or how we choose to spend our free time. We make the best choice we can given the options before us.

If joy is indeed a choice, then it is the best choice we could make in how we order our lives. Choosing joy is about saying yes to a way of living from a deeper place.

It’s about activating our hearts and minds and spirits and living truly, fully, and courageously in the world.

Joy is not a byproduct of a stress-free week or things going according to plan. Rather, joy is an intentional decision, regardless of our level of stress or the obstacles that stand in our way.

It is saying with every fiber in our being, “Today, I choose life. Today, I choose joy.”

This week, no matter what comes your way, make the decision to choose joy.

And keep choosing it over and over again.

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