Some days are tough. Some are long. This one was both. It wasn’t the worst I’ve ever been through, but it was the worst in a recent stretch of days that were going fairly well, and I was looking forward to calling it a night. I felt defeated and cranky, but just then the Holy Spirit said, “Choose joy.”
Don’t you hate it when He does that? You’re tired, so you’re embracing the path of least resistance, which inevitably means following the flesh. That’s when He does it, asks you to rise above, to shine His light when you feel dark.
And you know what it brought to mind? Jesus and two scriptures.
Jesus had a rough day of his own after having to come down pretty hard on the pharisees. He left the temple, maybe hoping to call it a day, just like me. But he didn’t get to kick off his shoes and relax for the evening because the disciples pointed out the temple buildings to him on the way out.
Here’s where we get a glimpse into what Jesus was thinking, because when he looks at the temple with the disciples, he sees the temple as it will be in a future day, when not one stone will stand any longer on another. I think Jesus must have been getting homesick. On the heels of a tough confrontation his thoughts might have grown dark and fell upon another tough day for him that was fast approaching – Crucifixion Day.
Instead of lingering over the spiritual and physical agony of crucifixion, he goes in his mind even further to another day, a better day – the Day of the Lord. So Jesus looks at the temple, and sees it as it will one day be, destroyed, when he will come again. It sparks a conversation with the disciples about the signs of his coming and the end of the age, and that glorious Day (Matthew 23-24).
Maybe Jesus did this because he already knew the future. We’re not so capable of scanning the future for our thoughts to land on a better time. But Jesus gave us a few gems about that Day that can carry us through our long, difficult days. Those gems shine His light into our present darkness if we let them.
I think that just might be what Jesus’ late night in Gethsemane was all about. He was looking for a way to wrap his hands around a bitter cup he didn’t want to drink. But God asked him to embrace that cup like a crystal goblet that shined light to a future wedding feast where He will wed his Bride. I think the Holy Spirit might have asked him to look at his long, tough crucifixion day and choose joy. The request made Jesus sweat. Blood.
But he did it. The writer of Hebrews tells us that ”…Jesus, …for the joy set before Him, endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus looked at undeserved death by ultimate torture at the hands of men he loved and longed to forgive and saw beyond it to the joy enduring would bring.
Can we do any less when faced with a long, hard day that is actually short and easy when compared with what Jesus endured for the joy set before him? We can look to the same glorious day and endure for the sake of joy.