By Tanji Johnson

Here I was, 2 weeks into the filming of NBC’s new American Gladiators. As one of the gladiators, I was competing on a structure called the pyramid and had just grabbed hold of a contestant who was extremely close to reaching the top and winning. I pulled her off and just as soon as I felt victory, I went flying back down the pyramid and my knee hyper-extended during the fall.



My body was in shock so I was not sure exactly what was injured. I knew, however, that I was in a very familiar place. It was a place of uncertainty and misfortune that would change my future in the short term.



Five years earlier, I tore my Achilles tendon four days before the prestigious Arnold Classic. The injury meant I had to take six months off from competing. Now, having torn my ACL, I knew the recovery would take longer and halt my career as an American Gladiator.



The days after my injury before the surgery were the hardest. My knee was swollen and stiff and always in pain. I lost my range of motion in my knee because of the edema and swelling in the joints. I was on crutches for a month and it was difficult to get through simple day-to-day tasks. The surgery was a success but having to rest was a challenge for someone like me who is normally very active.



Physically, my body responded well to surgery and rehab. Spiritually, I was ready. I was ready for the battlefield in my mind. Depression is what typically sets in during major changes like this one. I have learned not to let my circumstances kill my spirit. The Bible offers a powerfully wise thought, "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person's strength". A cheerful heart brings positive benefits to our physical bodies. This means that having a happy heart can be healing to the soul and fuel for the body. Likewise, being depressed and sad for a long period of time can be detrimental to our physical health and strength.



On not-so-happy days, ask yourself, "Why am I not cheerful? Where has my joy gone?” Most of the time, when I ask myself this question I realize that I have been fretting about circumstances like finances, car troubles, relationship problems or poor health with family members. Any of these concerns can wear on your Spirit and make you truly unhappy especially when you focus on them. Instead, God calls us to focus on our relationship with Jesus, the one thing that can be constant and remains positive.



Life is not always a feast of pleasant experiences, and we cannot control all the circumstances that will be unveiled in our daily lives. But, we CAN pour our energies into knowing and loving Jesus! Is that really possible? You bet! He is the source of all joy and can fill us with true cheerfulness, hope, and joy.



Happiness can happen all around me even when circumstances seem to mar it. JOY flows right through trouble. Joy flows through the dark.



When my ACL was torn I may have been a broken athlete but certainly not a broken spirit. I coach women for Fitness & Figure competition. I’ve learned that giving advice is not as effective as setting a good example. For me, that example is demonstrated through believing in God’s power of healing. I want people to know that even though I’m a gladiator not appearing in season two and even though I’m a top fitness pro currently not competing --- I am still a powerful force in life. My life serves as a witness to others and that is a powerful thing. My attitude can inspire others and my response to difficult situations can serve as a testimony of my faith.



Without a relationship with Christ, I’m sure that my self-esteem would be tied to athletic achievements, fancy job titles or an image created by the public. But, there is something quite peaceful about serving God. The beautiful thing is the variety of ways I can do that.



I encourage you to keep your JOY alive through Christ. Strive for that cheerful heart even in your unpleasant circumstances. You can begin by reminding yourself of where your true identity lies. Then, you can practice living in the spirit of thanksgiving where you focus on all the things you are grateful for. Finally, remembering your purpose, one that focuses on serving others and not yourself is a great way to keep things in perspective!



KEEP YOUR JOY ALIVE TODAY 1. Put your confidence in God rather than what others say and do. Your confidence is built as you pray and read the Bible.
2. Don’t let challenges be setbacks. Instead, understand them to be tools you can use to gain greater spiritual strength.
3. Interact with others. Putting your focus on being an example to others keeps you from focusing on temporary defeats.



Tanji Johnson is an IFBB fitness pro and fitness personality. She serves many roles in the fitness industry, none more important to her than sharing with others about Christ. She is a long-term partner with Faith & Fitness Magazine lending her faith, knowledge and passion through writing, speaking and advisory support. She can be reached through her website .


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