2014 was a rough year.
Continuing illness from our house with mold, landlord issues, lack of employment, moving across country, saying goodbye to friends and family, and then a job loss took its toll on our family.
So when our pastor, Matt Keller, at Next Level Church here in lovely, balmy Florida began talking about choosing joy during his holiday sermons, you can imagine my divided thoughts and emotions. Yes, I know God’s good, and in all of it, he has done incredible things.
But we were challenged to choose joy. In every setting. You know the verse in James, “Count it all joy, brothers…”
Interestingly enough, around the same time, I was contacted about Margaret Feinberg’s new book, Fight Back With Joy. Would I be willing to write an honest review if I were provided a few chapters?
Naturally I said yes.
I don’t think this was a coincidence. Joy seemed a struggling commodity in our lives this past year. I wanted joy. I need joy. Maybe my word for this coming year should be “joy.”
Margaret says in her book that she always thought of “…joy as a natural byproduct of a life well lived.” I think that is what I believed too. But if that was the case, then I hadn’t lived well the previous year, had I?
Was joy the measure of whether my life was good or bad?
It couldn’t be. And if joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in my life, something God grants me then couldn’t I have it for the asking? Couldn’t it be cultivated in my heart?
What is joy anyway?
This is what Margaret Feinberg reveals in Fight Back With Joy.
And she goes a step further, showing how she chose joy in the midst of a diagnosis of cancer. Say what? Who does that?
In her typically engaging, lay-it-all out there way, Margaret shares how her life-threatening challenge created a compelling platform for discovering and communicating what true joy is and what it meant in her darkest time of need.
Defiant joy that declared darkness would not win.
We are encouraged that joy doesn’t deny hardship. It doesn’t sugar-coat our trials and pretend they are easy. No,
…joy is a weapon we use to fight life’s battles.”
Wow. It seems my battles have been joy stealers. The concept that I can choose joy to fight gives me hope and fills me with – joy!
Margaret goes on to explain all the ways God gives us joy. Such as through embracing his love for us, looking for joy in each good thing, being blessed by people God sends to refresh us (like Philemon for Paul in the Bible) and choosing to create moments and situations of hilarity. Those are only a few of the thought provoking and uplifting discoveries this encouraging author offers.
I nearly cried when my first few chapters came to an end.
This is a book I needed. And I have the inkling that many others do as well. We need this honest look at how to deal with the trials of our lives. Life, especially these days, is rough. Not everyone is facing cancer, but as Margaret acknowledges, every one of us has dealt with or is going through some difficult situation.
And God intends for us, enables us to live in joy.
Even in the darkest, most heart-wrenching of times. Not putting on a fake smile of “Everything’s great!,” but existing with something deeper and stronger in the midst of pain or sorrow.