“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” 1 Peter 1:8 (NIV)
So I got a tattoo.
If you remember, I was pretty anxious upon arriving in Italy. I spent the entire month feeling afraid my family was going to die while I was away. Or that I was going to die on the plane back to America. The fears were irrational, but that’s the thing with anxiety: it doesn’t care to rationalize. Anxiety likes to convince you that all hope is lost.
One morning during breakfast, I was flipping through my journal from last summer. I had the idea that last summer in New York was a breeze. New York is like a second home to me. I don’t remember feeling anxious or homesick at all. My journal stated otherwise. Apparently, I was having enough inner turmoil to write the words, “I can find joy in the deepest depths of despair.” Joy unspeakable.
I wouldn’t define joy as happiness. No, that is too fleeting an emotion. C.S. Lewis wrote that joy should be “distinguished both from happiness and pleasure.” I wouldn’t define joy as an absence of sadness, anxiety, misery, or any bad thing you can think of. I think joy is knowing that despite it all, there is still a hope at the end.
A few years ago, I was going through some things and almost tattooed these Paramore lyrics onto my hip: “It’s just a spark, but it’s enough to keep me going.” I never got the tattoo, but I think the words apply to this little bit of hope I have. Faith the size of a mustard seed, if you will. Even a few months ago when I found myself in one of the lowest lows my faith has ever seen, I still had hope. I had hope that joy was still there.
Anxiety has played a really big role in my recent life, but so has joy. Somehow I have found joy. I found it in Jesus. That’s the cliche statement that you probably expected me to write on this blog, but that doesn’t take away from its truth.
“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again–rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 (NLT)
So back to why I actually permanently inked the word “joy” onto my arm. Aside from C.S. Lewis’s books and quotes about joy, my previous journal writings, and songs alluding to this joy, I have experienced joy in being a rescued child of God. I’ve been rescued from sin and death. I’ve been rescued from my own mind and destructive thoughts. I’ve been rescued from toxic relationships and situations. I’ve been rescued so much more than I deserve. That’s why I know He will never fail to rescue me.
I was far away from home and desperate to escape my own head, but I remembered joy. I remembered I could just reach out and take it. I remembered I could be made free.
“…the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.”- Ann Voskamp
So, a few days into my trip I wrote joy on my arm with a sharpie to remind myself to find joy in my Savior every single day. After writing it each day for a month, I wanted it as a permanent reminder. And I hope people ask me about it because I’m bursting with this joy and I can’t wait to share it.
Joy is now permanently inked onto my skin. My earthly commitment to joy is now a greater commitment than my future marriage, future kids, future anything. My joy will grow old with me. While my joy tattoo is temporary and will be buried with my body when I die, my joy in Christ remains eternal. Rejoice in the Lord, friends, for He is good no matter the circumstances and no matter what your mind tricks you into thinking.
I have been filled with the joy of the Lord. It is beautiful, sweet, and ever-present, even when it’s just a spark.