Joy over circumstance

Erin Petersen Blog

If you know me at all you know that I am an emotional person and I think that is putting it lightly. When I asked Andrew, after 12 years of marriage, what surprised him most about me after we had gotten married his response was that I CRY so much. Yes, I am a woman and emotions are a thing, but in the past I have tended to roll with these emotions. I let myself get tossed by the waves of my emotions.

Choose joy?

A few years ago there was this whole “CHOOSE JOY” thing that went around. That whatever you feel at the moment, to CHOOSE JOY instead. I get it. It sounds great. But what is JOY? I think people have misunderstood Joy and think of it as happiness. I think happiness depends on happenings (how one FEELS) and joy depends on Jesus (what He has done). Happiness is something that comes and goes; joy is a state of being.

I have always struggled with JOY because I thought it meant happiness. I would be happy and then something would happen, and I would be sad or mad. I would let myself get tossed again and again. So, I decided to look more into “JOY”. I got the bright idea that I needed to remember JOY daily and the fact that joy doesn’t depend on my circumstance but on what Jesus has already done for me and rest in that.

The tattoo

How does one who is naturally emotionally sensitive try and remember this whole “JOY” concept? Naturally one goes and gets a tattoo on her wrist so that she is constantly reminded of the JOY she has because of Jesus. So, I walk into the tattoo parlor with my “JOY” design and am ready to rock ‘n roll. I handed it to the artist, and he had a few suggestions on placement. I wanted it in plain sight for me to see and be reminded of all of the time, so I put it on my wrist. Under the advice of the artist, arm tattoos should always be facing out so other people can see it. Fair enough. Done.

I walked out. I cried and then I cried some more.

I headed to my mom’s house to show her. I realized that my tattoo that said “JOY” to others said “HOL” to me. Because of the placement of the tattoo and it facing outward, what I read when I looked at my wrist was “HOL.” The whole point of this tattoo was to remind ME of joy, not for the rest of the world. I had a panic attack. I ran outside breathing hard and fast, shouting some expletives (I am an emotional one, remember) and thinking that I HAVE THIS HOL ON ME FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.

Then entered mom with a hug and as moms tend to do, had some comforting words for me. “Erin, isn’t that the point. Your JOY does not depend on your circumstance, right?”


She was right. Jesus has not changed. He will not change. What’s done is done. He has won. I will rest in that.

Joy over circumstance

It has taken me some time (three years) to get used to HOL. There have been many times that I have wanted to get the tattoo removed, and in fact just a month ago, I scheduled an appointment to have another tattoo to cover HOL but then decided to cancel. This tattoo does in fact remind me that my joy does not depend on my circumstance or even a dumb tattoo, but rests in Jesus.

In these times of uncertainty and fear with everything going on, I challenge you all to rest in Jesus. It’s easy to be tossed by your waves of emotions, but focus on the fact that He is in control and that should keep the fear at bay. When in doubt, think about my tattoo HOL and smile and be thankful…. that it’s permanently on ME and not you.

“You will keep in perfect peace those who are steadfast, because they trust in You.” (Isaiah 26:3)