I just finished reading Margaret Feinberg’s latest book, Fight Back with Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fears.
It’s not an easy read. Margaret writes in raw, painful, moving detail about her cancer diagnosis, chemotherapy, surgeries and radiation treatments – and her decision to fight back with joy.
I’m humbled. I cannot imagine enduring what Margaret endured, let alone choosing joy in the midst of all of that. And I’m inspired. When Margaret says it is possible to choose joy, even when every nerve ending is on fire and she is too weak to walk across the room, I have to listen.
There is a danger for those of us who have never faced a cancer diagnosis. It would be very easy to read the book and think, “Well, that does not apply to me because…” Yes it does apply to you. And me.
I’ve never faced cancer, but for as long as I can remember, I have struggled with depression. Some days are not so bad; other days I feel like I am pushing my way through gray, tasteless Jell-O. Some days I can hold the dogs at bay; other days the despair settles in and even breathing seems like too much work.
Have I been to therapy? Yes, multiple times. Have I been prayed for? Yes, multiple times. Have I tried medication? Yes. Have I tried praise and worship? Yes, sometimes on a daily basis. Do I have Scriptures? Of course! But, like Paul’s “thorn” in his flesh, the depression hangs on, and on, and on… and so, in my own way, I also fight back with joy.
Not surprisingly, one of the first verses that was given to me was Nehemiah 8:10b: “The joy of the Lord will be your strength.” I used to recite that line over and over again, emphasizing a different word each time. The JOY of the Lord. Not fear, depression, despair, hopelessness, but joy. The joy of the LORD. His joy, straight from the Source rather than anything I could manufacture on my own. The joy of the Lord will be MY strength. It’s His gift to me. I have it; I can use it. The joy of the Lord will be my STRENGTH. His strength, made perfect in my weakness; Christ Who strengthens me.
And so, over the years, I have learned to show up, to smile, to say “I’m well, thank you,” to offer hugs and welcome people, and share the joy off the Lord when I have none myself.
It’s spiritual warfare, people. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the forces of darkness. I like to think that when we choose joy in spite of the circumstances—whether the circumstances are life-threatening or merely annoying or anything in between—we are wearing down the enemy in the same way he wants to wear us down. So let’s all fight back with joy.