These two words are gold-pressed on the cover of my prayer journal and painted yellow on a canvas that hangs on a wall in my bedroom.
It seems so simple: choose the things in life that make you happy. Easy, right?
I don’t mean to be flippant. Anyone who copes with depression and anxiety, or struggles with life’s daily challenges, can tell you that sometimes choosing joy is not an option.
But what about when it is?
What people don’t tell you is that sometimes choosing joy is the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do.
I think about the people who choose to leave toxic relationships or jobs; the people who choose to quit a job or go back to school to pursue another career; the people who choose to fight for justice. The people who choose joy because they know that, though the road ahead will be difficult and scary, not choosing that road could be even worse.
For so many people, choosing joy means choosing life.
And the people who make that choice know the risk of joy.
Choosing joy takes courage, and I believe with my whole heart that every one of us has the capacity to do so: to choose not to stay in the miserable job, the miserable friendship or relationship, the miserable apartment.
Yes, there are varying levels of privilege that allow for different choices, but the choice for joy is still there. (And truthfully, some of the most joyous people I know are those whom society would deem ‘the least of these.’)
But choosing joy doesn’t need to be huge. It can be the little every day things.
Sometimes, choosing joy looks like choosing a salad over a donut; sometimes it looks like choosing the donut over the salad. Sometimes it looks like sepending 5 minutes outside instead of another 5 minutes on the couch, or vice versa. It means choosing the thing that will bring me the most joy in that one moment. But so often I don’t make that choice, and it is usually because deep down I don’t really believe that I deserve it.
Every day we can find ourselves at the crossroads of joy and misery; stuck between the choice of continuing the thing that weighs us down or finding the courage to do something different.
But choosing joy takes courage. It takes believing that you deserve joy – that you deserve to feel happiness, love, and goodness.
And that takes love. A whole lot of it!
What I want you to know is that you are capable and brave, and that you are loved. I want you to know that it is okay to choose joy!
As you go forth in your week, notice when you’re at the crossroads. Take a deep breath, connect with your courage, know that you deserve all the goodness in the world, and be brave.