Book Report: Fight Back with Joy

Fight Back with Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fears. by Margaret Feinberg

When an unexpected cancer diagnosis came knocking on Margaret’s door, she was faced with a choice: which weapon should she choose for the battle ahead? The spunky writer armed herself with joy and began an epic brawl with the darkness inside her. If you think it a silly approach, the apostle Paul would heartily disagree. “This critical quality has been transformed into a trinket we rarely notice and almost never take seriously.” But as Margaret would discover, when wielded with the light of Christ, joy makes all the difference in the world.

Some of the quotes that impacted me most were:

Joy flows out of unsuspecting, and often daunting, places. It’s illogical, irrational, downright crazypants to think that great adversity could possibly lead to a fuller life. Yet that’s what I’ve discovered.

Mirth has a magical way of poking holes in the darkness until we see the stars.

Joy is a far more dynamic, forceful weapon than most of us realize.

Something beautiful resides in a faith that is not results-based.

When we fight back with joy, we no longer size the character of God according to our circumstances, but we size our circumstances according to the character of God and His great affection for us.

This grace-given resolve to celebrate Christ in all things is fortified in the storms, not on the still seas.

You need much more than an experiment to unleash the power of joy. You need chutzpah, you need backbone, you need intentionality—and sometimes you need a crisis.

The concept that has stayed with me is how suffering expands our emotional bandwidth while caregiving diminishes it. Loss, crisis, and trauma allow for a broad range of responses, often mixed together in surprising ways. “Feelings that once seemed opposites now intertwine. We erupt in laughter as tears flow. Hope and despair cross paths in our hearts … Rather than suppress our emotions, we need to recognize them as healing our souls.” (Is anyone else reminded of Pixar’s Inside Out?) On the other hand, taking responsibility for someone in the middle of loss, crisis, or trauma requires discernment about where to direct our output. Margaret’s husband urges caregivers: “Be realistic about your time and energy levels.” I can lower my crazy expectations and give my best effort to a much smaller circle than was previously the case. This permission slip is huge for me right now.

My journaling questions from this book include:

  • Where could I use a “hope nudge” from friends or family?
  • How can I begin to lean into unknowing?
  • When I encounter someone in pain, what’s the danger of wanting to fix them rather than care for them?
  • In the battles of my life, who fights with me?
  • When has a sense of “withness” (knowing that others are alongside me) unleashed joy in/around me?
  • How have I defined myself by the additions or subtractions in my life?
  • Where might I trade exasperation for expectation, releasing how things were to embrace how things might be?
  • What do I need to grieve? What secondhand priorities, reservoirs of ingratitude, and strongholds of immaturity could it wash away?
  • How can I determine to praise God in the places life has withered?
  • Which heart scars might be healed through forgiveness?

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