In Your presence is fullness of joy. — Psalm 16:11 NASB
“I need a leaf blower. But for people.”
I chuckled when I saw that line on a tea towel — and I think Warren Wiersbe might have laughed too. “People” represent one of four joy stealers the Bible scholar identifies in his commentary on Philippians, a book aptly titled Be Joyful. The other three are circumstances (a bad day at the office can qualify), things (we think having more stuff will satisfy us, but it’s often the reverse that is true), and worry (which, Wiersbe says, is the worst thief of all because it’s an “inside job”).1
As Christians, we know that God puts a high value on joy.
We see Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding, throwing a party when the prodigal son returns home, and talking about joy to His disciples, even as He made His way to the Cross. The thief, Jesus says, comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but He came so that we might have life — life to the full!2
Joy is a by-product of the Spirit-filled life, and we expect that when we trust Christ, we will experience what David called “the joy of your salvation.”3 We expect that… but we don’t always live that. Instead of being filled with joy — being joy-full — we are often discouraged, fearful, or anxious.
Not all of us, of course. Wiersbe maintains that some people are thermometers, going up and down with the temperature. Others, however, are thermostats, regulating and changing their surroundings. The apostle Paul, Wiersbe says, was a thermostat.4
Paul knew how to be content “in any and every situation.”5 Even after he was severely beaten and thrown into prison, his spirits didn’t sag; he spent his time praying and singing. So did his companion, Silas. And all the other prisoners heard them.6 What was their secret?
Their secret was that instead of looking at Jesus through the lens of their circumstances, they regarded their circumstances with the perspective of Jesus. The fact that they were in chains, Paul said, “served to advance the gospel.” It piqued the curiosity of Paul’s captors and equipped other believers to talk about Jesus with greater confidence.7
Do I, I wondered, know people like that, people who radiate joy, even in the most challenging situations? People who see their circumstances as opportunities to showcase God’s power and His love? Can I point to any modern-day Pauls?
My friend Heather (not her real name) came to mind.
When a radiologist scheduled an MRI-guided biopsy of her breast, Heather asked God to prepare her heart to receive whatever news the test revealed. Rather than give in to worry or fear, she focused on verses like Zephaniah 3:16-17 (NIV, 1984 ed.):
Do not fear… do not let your hands hang limp. The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.
A few days later, I saw a message from Heather in my email inbox. “The biopsy came back with good news!” she exclaimed. I started to rejoice — and then I read on.
She had breast cancer.
“I’m so thankful,” Heather wrote, “that what was hidden was revealed in the biopsy! ‘Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.’ And when I asked God to equip me to receive this diagnosis, He reminded me of His promise:
‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.’”
Heather was quoting Hebrews 4:13 and 1 Corinthians 2:9, verses I knew and believed, but I can’t say I would have called her update “good news.” But to Heather’s way of thinking, it was — and she purposed to let the joy of the Lord be her strength and to share God’s kindness and His power with (as she put it) “all my new medical friends.”
And she did.
Like Paul and Silas in prison, Heather continually talked about the goodness of God. Her message to every doctor, nurse, and patient she met was the same: Your heavenly Father is for you. He understands. He watches over you and is with you to strengthen you, guide you, and hold your hand.
I wondered what had equipped Heather to be so upbeat in the face of what most people would consider bad — if not devastating — news.
I found my answer (or part of it anyway) in John 16:24. This passage records some of Jesus’ very last words before the crucifixion. He was talking with His disciples, and based on their conversation, it’s clear that they didn’t grasp what was to come. Jesus said they would weep — but He also promised they would receive joy.
“Until now,” He said, “you have not asked for anything in My name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”
“Ask,” Jesus said, “and your joy will be complete.” Prayer, then, is a pathway to joy.
I read that verse, and it hit me. Heather prays more than almost anybody I know. I’ve never once had a visit, a phone call, or even a texting conversation where she didn’t start praying about whatever we were discussing, as if pulling up a chair to the table for God. (It’s hard to tell sometimes whether she’s talking to Him or to me!) “May the God of hope,” she said in one recent exchange, “fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Encouraging words, to be sure — and also a powerful Scripture-based prayer.8
Does Heather always get what she asks for? No. But in casting all her care upon God,9 she receives freedom from worry and fear. As she prays, God’s peace guards her heart and her mind.10 The answer may not be evident yet, but in taking her concerns to her heavenly Father — in praying moment by moment — Heather enters His presence, the place where there is fullness of joy.11
And our prayers do the same thing. They establish a connection with God so He can fill our hearts with joy.
I don’t know what sort of trial you’re facing — what circumstances, anxieties, or people you may want to leaf-blow today. I do know, though, that as we take these what-ifs and worries to God, knowing (as Heather says) that He is for us, He is with us, and He understands, we can experience genuine, unshakable joy.
We know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.12
➢Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
➢ Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5 ESV)
➢ For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. (Zephaniah 3:17 NLT)
➢ God is a God of joy. He rejoices over us and longs to fill us with joy as we trust in Him. He wants His joy to be our strength.
➢Where are you not experiencing joy? Are there circumstances, people, worries, or things that are stealing your joy? How can seeing these situations or relationships as opportunities to proclaim God’s goodness help change your perspective? What role can prayer play in shaping your outlook?
➢ Take some time to reflect on the joy God offers to those who trust in Him. Ask Him to show you the path of life — to show you your life as He sees it — and allow Him to fill you with joy in His presence. Picture Him rejoicing over you with joyful songs, and let the Holy Spirit fill your heart with His love.
➢ Teach me to pray in Your name, according to Your will, so that You will give that to me and my joy will be a river, overflowing its banks! (John 16:24 MSG)
➢ Let the light of Your face shine on us. Fill my heart with joy. Let me lie down and sleep in peace, for You make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:6-8)
➢ Make known to me the path of life; fill me with joy in Your presence. (Psalm 16:11)
➢ Help me wait in hope for You; be my help and my shield. Equip me to trust You so that my heart will rejoice. (Psalm 33:20-21)
➢Equip me to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
➢ Help me be a person who finds joy in giving an apt reply, a timely word to those who need it. (Proverbs 15:23)
➢When my soul is downcast and disturbed, let me put my hope in You and praise You as my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42:5)
➢ May I keep Your commands and remain in Your love so Your joy will be in me and my joy will be complete. (John 15:10-11)
➢ May I always be full of the joy of the Lord. I say it again: may I rejoice! (Philippians 4:4 NLT)
➢ When troubles of any kind come, help me consider them an opportunity for great joy. For when my faith is tested, my endurance has a chance to grow, making me perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4 NLT)
➢ When anxiety or uncertainty looms, don’t let me be afraid. You are with me, a Mighty Warrior who saves. Take great delight in me; rejoice over me with singing. (Zephaniah 3:16-17)
➢ Bring rains to my drought-stricken life. Where I have planted crops in despair, may I shout hurrahs at the harvest. Where I have gone off with a heavy heart, may I come home laughing, with armloads of blessing. (Psalm 126:4-6 MSG)
➢ Be the God of hope in my life. Fill me with all joy and peace as I trust in You, and may I overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
➢I haven’t seen You, Lord, but I love You. I don’t see You now, but I believe in You. Fill me with an inexpressible and glorious joy, since I am receiving the end result of my faith, the salvation of my soul. (1 Peter 1:8-9)
Watch the Video
- Warren Wiersbe, Be Joyful: Even When Things Go Wrong, You Can Have Joy (Colorado Springs: Cook, 1974), 20.
- John 2:9; Luke 15:24; John 15:11; John 10:10.
- See Galatians 5:22 and Psalm 51:12.
- See Wiersbe, Be Joyful, 141.
- Philippians 4:12.
- Acts 16:22-25.
- Philippians 1:12-14.
- Heather’s prayer is from Romans 15:13.
- 1 Peter 5:7.
- Philippians 4:6-7.
- Psalm 16:11 NASB.
- Romans 5:5 NLT.
Excerpted with permission from Praying the Scriptures for Your Life by Jodie Berndt, copyright Jodie Berndt.
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Joy is not circumstantial. It is possible to be a person who radiates joy, even in the most challenging situations. We can be people who see our circumstances as opportunities to showcase God’s power and His love. It’s through Jesus that we find our joy, not this life through which we’re just visiting. Joy is ours through Him! Come share your thoughts with us! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full