A couple of years ago I went through a season in which I struggled to find joy in much of anything. In an effort to both pinpoint and address the problem, I threw aside my Bible reading plan and spent several weeks diving deep into the book of Philippians.
Most commentators agree that one of the primary themes in Paul’s letter to the Philippians is joy—after all, the words translated as “joy” and “rejoicing” appear 16 times in only 104 verses. What’s even more remarkable, though, is that Paul penned his epistle of joy from the confines of a Roman prison. Could it be that joy—real joy, deep joy, lasting joy—isn’t found merely in our own personal circumstances?
That seems to be the memo we get from Paul in Philippians 1:3-11. Even from a dingy prison cell, Paul erupts in thanksgiving for his Philippian brothers and sisters. His affection for them is on full display as he prays for their sanctification—that they would grow in love, knowledge, discernment, purity, and righteousness. And what was the fruit of Paul’s intercession for the Philippians? Joy (v. 4).
Are you searching for more joy in your life? Honestly, who isn’t? Maybe a good starting point would be growing in self-forgetfulness—making it a point to “count others more significant than yourself” (Phil. 2:3), by praying for the people that God has providentially placed in your life. The prayer that Jesus modeled for us is inherently corporate—“Our Father…give us…forgive us…lead us…deliver us…” (Matt. 6:9-13). May we be a people—better yet, a family—that remembers to pray “not only [for our] own interests, but also [for] the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4).