In the book of Philippians, in just four chapters, Paul uses the word “joy” 16 times. It’s mind-boggling to me that the most positive book of the Bible is Paul’s darkest time of his life. He was a prisoner in a Roman jail, awaiting execution. How, you may ask, does Paul speak of joy during this incredibly dark time? The answer is simple: Joy is a choice…and you, too, can have that same kind of joy. In Philippians, Paul gives us some help as to how we can live joyful lives, no matter what our circumstances are.
- Focus on what’s good.
Life is a roller coaster. It’s filled with ups and downs. You have a choice: Which are you going to focus on — the up or the down? The good or the bad? Paul says in Philippians 4:8, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (NLT). So where do we go to focus on joy? Talk radio? Nope. Television shows and movies? Nope. Magazines or social media? No, and no.
There is one place, however, you can count on: God’s Word. The more you fill your mind with God’s Word, the more positive and joyful you’re going to be. God’s Word is true, it is right, and it is admirable. Spend some time reading God’s Word every day.
- Learn to be content.
Remember, joy is a decision. You are as joyful as you choose to be. We get caught up in “when and then” thinking. (“When ‘this’ happens in my life, then I’ll be happy.”) You are as joyful as you choose to be, because joy is a choice. Philippians 4:11 says, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (NIV). You can always be joyful — no matter what happens — because God is in control.
- Use your life to help others.
Paul experienced continual joy because he was unselfish. He poured his life into others. If you want to have continuous joy in your life, here is the secret: Give your life away. Stop focusing on all your problems, and begin focusing on helping others. Jesus said that the more you give your life away, the more you find it.
“I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work” (Philippians 4:1b). Paul experienced joy by serving the people he led to Christ and cared for.
Take some time to do one or two of the following:
- Invite each family member to share one thing that they’re trusting God to handle.
- Write a note to someone who is experiencing fear and worry. Let them know you’re praying that God will give them the courage they need.
- Make an inventory of the things that bring you joy.
“I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus return.” (Philippians 1:6 NLT).
Pray the following prayer:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is discord, union.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
— Prayer for Peace, by St. Francis of Assisi