In one of my first lecture classes that I took as a freshman, the professor told us something that has stuck with me, and hopefully will stick with me until the day I die.
He said to choose joy.
Funny phrase, isn’t it? I think we grow up thinking that joy is something that happens to us—something dependent on circumstances. A good day, for example, results in joy, whereas a bad day results in misery. In this equation, joy is an inevitable thing, like sorrow, or traffic jams, or getting a cold during the winter.
But that’s not the way joy works. Happiness works that way, maybe, but not joy. Joy, like love, is a choice. You can choose to face a situation with a rotten attitude, or you can choose not to. You have that option.
There have been many instances over the last two years of my life when deciding to choose joy has saved my sanity and the sanity of those around me. On the way back to America from Croatia this year, it would’ve been very easy (and justifiable) to despair and be a total sourpuss, considering that everything that could go wrong that day did. But these words echoed in my mind, and I knew that the only way to handle this situation would be to choose joy. Just choose it. Decide to stay positive or decide to stay miserable.
I chose joy. The result: a much better trip than it would’ve been otherwise. Yes, things kept going wrong. But I came off that last plane grinning. It was nothing short of a miracle.
The joy-choosing deteriorated a bit when I came to terms with the idea that my luggage might not be coming home. I got a bit snippy, then. But I’m human, after all. I’m Risabella, not Pollyanna. I allowed cynicism to set in, and I wasn’t happy, nor was anyone else within a ten-foot radius of me. Choosing joy clearly would’ve been the better option, but I didn’t, or couldn’t, I’m not sure which.
We’ll never be free from choices—but the choices we make can free us. Choosing joy frees you from being miserable and from making others miserable. Choosing joy reflects better on the God I serve, since He has set me free from all the things that held me back before.