Many of you will know of Margaret Feinberg, a wonderful Bible teacher and wordsmith. Some of you will also be aware that Margaret has been in a mighty battle with breast cancer over the past 18 months.
Margaret has recently released Fight Back with Joy which chronicles her journey and some of what she’s learnt along the way. Before I provide some of my thoughts on the book over the next week or two, I thought it would be useful to read some background on the book from Margaret herself.
Margaret was kind enough to share some pre-written responses to a number of questions.
Your newest book and Bible study, Fight Back With Joy, was born out of your fight with a life-threatening illness. What was your difficult diagnosis, and what has your journey to health entailed?
For the last 18 months, I’ve been battling breast cancer. Breast cancer isn’t just one disease represents thousands of different diseases with their varying components and factors. Being diagnosed under the age of 40 is significant. I’ve been through a brutal year of chemotherapy, radiation, and more surgeries than I can count or want to remember.
Why did you write Fight Back With Joy?
I studied joy for a year and was putting the finishing touches on book on joy—just two weeks from turning it into the publisher, when I received the diagnosis. I had been pursuing and activating joy in my life in the relatively good times, now I had to do it in the midst of darkness, depression, and torturous pain. Through the process, I’ve discovered the breadth, depth, and power of joy—that despite hundreds of sermons and many decades in the church—no one had told me of before.
Much of the teaching I’ve heard on joy over the years is oversimplified. I remember those days in Sunday school learning that JOY is spelled Jesus, Others, Yourself. While that made perfect sense at 9 years old, I’ve seen how distorted that can become as an adult.
I see friends who love Jesus but spend so much time pouring into their kids, grandkids and others that their joy looks something like this: jOy.
Technically, it still spells joy, but more than anything, these men and women who are so exhausted, so empty, so running on fumes from pouring into others need to pause and take time to focus on themselves. Laying hold of joy right now will require them to reevaluate for a season and discover the joy that comes with JYo.
I also noticed how most of the definitions of joy define it more by what it isn’t than by what it is. I constantly heard that happiness is based on circumstance but joy is not dependent on circumstance.
Biblical expressions of joy turn out to be far different than what I had been taught. I am now convinced the writers of the Bible would say that, the reason we have joy is because we have great circumstances. If you are a child of God, you are drenched in the grace and mercy of God.
No matter what you’re facing: Your circumstances are better than you think.
If you’re not experiencing joy, perhaps it’s because your definition of joy is too narrow.
On a scale of 1-10, how hard was it for you to write this book and Bible study?
An eleven! This journey has been the most painful experience of my life. And, to share about it requires some vulnerability. Okay, a lot of vulnerability. And, that’s really, really hard. But I feel like I’m finally ready to share what God has stirred in my heart along the way because although cancer has been the most painful journey—it has also been the most joyful. And no one is more surprised than I am.
It’s a beautiful book as Margaret with such vulnerability and skilled storytelling draws us into her world of diagnosis, treatment and everything in between. I found myself with tears in my eyes (often) and wonderstruck by her courage and wisdom to weave a rich tapestry of beauty and grace making me grab a tighter hold of Jesus as I turned each page.