In December of 2014 I got my first tattoo and it says “joy”. It’s perfectly placed on my left forearm and designed by a close friend in a timeless lettering style. I think I desired this forevermark, now turned into a reminder, because I was subconsciously craving a deep sense of joy. I desired lightness, a lift of the weight off my shoulders.  If we met, you would probably describe me as a positive individual, but I’ve struggled for years, in my mind, choosing positive thoughts over negative ones. Choosing truth filled thoughts instead of irrational fears. Choosing joy.

At times the choice feels like a light switch that weighs 1,000 pounds. Even though I know I want joy, I’m close to it, I can choose it… but:

I’m having a hard day

I just heard some heavy news

marriage is kicking my butt

I question my purpose

I give in to catastrophic thinking

or some days absolutely nothing negative is going on yet choosing joy can still be trying.

One of the hardest moments in my life, when choosing joy felt impossible, was when my mom was diagnosed with cancer for the second time. She had been in remission for at least 7 years, so the news came as a shock. Being close to her, the severity of the diagnosis hit me hard. I was 17 at the time and for weeks I felt like I was numb and hopeless. I threw all my hard questions to God, all of the “whys”, and I did not hold back.

A ministry leader in my life at the time took notice of me and challenged me to do something about the fog I was in. She asked me to choose joy even when I couldn’t see or feel it.

Essentially she was asking me to find a reason to rejoice.

As she encouraged me in that way, her words felt like they were swimming against the current. Choosing joy was the opposite of what I was doing. At this point in my life I craved a deep sense of joy that had a stronger resilience than my circumstances. So, every morning I would verbally choose joy.

Can I tell you something?
Believing leads to living.

It really does. If we acted like we knew the immense amount of power we hold in our minds, I think all of our lives, perspectives, and attitudes would look more whole and content. After believing something for so long you actually start to feel it and begin living it out.

In the midst of my mom’s returning cancer, which was excruciating for her and painful to watch her go through, I had things that I could rejoice about. I was thankful for the close relationship we had. I was thankful that she loved and trusted Jesus. I was thankful for her love, her friendship, her wisdom, and all the basic things of life she taught me. Those were reasons to rejoice.

Rejoicing doesn’t mean ignoring or being fake, and I think that’s a reason why we are afraid to rejoice sometimes. It’s like we aren’t validating ourselves. I am a firm believer in acknowledging what’s going on and being real, but not letting it control you.  There’s a balance, and that’s where choosing joy comes into play.

Thanks to the permanent prompt on my forearm, even when my day feels heavy I’m reminded to find cause to rejoice. I list off what I am thankful for.

If you are in a heavy and challenging time of life, I am truly sorry. Hang in there, you are not alone. Jesus sees our most painful moments and he can handle each and every one of our whys.

But, even in the midst of the darkest of times, I want to challenge you to find a reason to rejoice. Like the mark on my arm, I want to remind you to choose joy daily.

Connect with Ceci and read more of her story in her book, Healing, Hope, & Wholeness