I am learning more and more that joy is a focus and not a feeling. Here’s what I mean by that: I have never been able to get myself to feel something different in a moment. If things are tough or I’m facing hardship, I usually feel something other than joy.
Even if I am able to embrace the hardship and am looking to persevere, it does not mean I immediately begin to feel joy. And truth be told, the most unhelpful thing anyone has ever said to me in one of these harsh seasons is, “Just choose joy.” Sounds great…but I’ve never been able to snap my fingers and make that happen.
Now, I know some people have the ability to find joy in anything and figure out a way to seem happy all the time. I’m jealous of them. It’s just not me! I am discovering joy requires a shift in focus, and simply focusing on having more joy might not cut it.
In Hebrews 12:1b-2, we read these words: “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 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 the throne of God.”
This verse has always messed with me a bit. The writer of Hebrews connects the joy of Jesus to the cross. Now let’s be clear: I know Jesus is the Son of God, but that did not keep Him from experiencing the full pain of the nails piercing His hands and feet. He was not immune to the betrayal and emotional weight of all that was tied to that moment. So how can the writer of Hebrews say, “for the joy set before him he endured the cross”? I think it is because joy is far more about focus than feeling. The joy Jesus experienced came not from his piercing but from God’s purpose. It came not from shame but from the knowledge of our salvation. It came not from his wounds but from God’s saving work. You see, joy comes as a result of what we focus on.
As I look to Hebrews 12, I see Jesus focusing on what is eternal. When you focus on the eternal, you can experience joy in the present—no matter what the present circumstances may be. Our willingness to embrace hardship and focus on God’s presence, purpose, and plan will ultimately provide a breakthrough for us to experience joy.
Praying you experience joy this week, no matter what comes your way,