When my friend and fellow Jesus-lover, Margaret Feinberg was diagnosed with breast cancer, there was a whole tribe of us, a band of sisters, who gave her the gift of our knees, all our earnest prayers. And Margaret says the brutal treatment she’s endured? Awoke her heart to more joy than she’s ever known—and no one is more surprised than her. She is just now beginning to share what’s she’s learned through her raw honest new book & Bible study, Fight Back With Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fears. It’s a grace to welcome Margaret Feinberg to the farm’s front porch today…
So the Gospel of Mark writer is a master of word economy.
Popping verbs. Sizzling accounts. Rampant pacing.
In his opening chapter, he omits details of Jesus baptism and temptation, and splices two events side by side in a handful of startling sentences.
With cool water droplets streaming down Jesus’ face, Mark 1:11-12 records: “And a voice came out of the heavens: ‘Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well pleased.’ And immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness” (NASB).
Jesus isn’t just baptized in water — He’s baptized in love.
Drenched in the divine delight. Immersed in the holy affection of God.
The same baptism you and I are invited into. Not just when we become followers of Christ, but each day. Each hour. Each moment.
We are meant to live as those who drip with God’s love.
Then the most startling event happens.
Without warning, Jesus transitions from 100 percent humidity to 0 percent humidity.
Jesus shifts from an environment in which He is soaked, saturated, sopping to one that’s dusty, desolate, dehydrated.
It’s easy to read the passage and miss the profundity, not just in Jesus’ life but in our own.
Divine affection doesn’t mean we won’t face affliction.
While itching under my arm, I felt a lump. At first, I thought it was my imagination. It turned out to be my worst nightmare.
Tests soon revealed I had breast cancer.
Not all breast cancer is the same. In fact, every breast cancer different. Some require a lumpectomy and/or radiation. Others are more severe. My course of treatment involved more than a year of chemotherapy, radiation, and many surgeries.
The gruesome details still bring me to tears.
My life hasn’t turned out like I expected. Maybe yours hasn’t either.
In His fierce love, God will sometimes impels us into the wilderness, a land marked by wild beasts.
The transition baffles us.
We beg God for an escape, an exit ramp.
What happened to the refreshing waters? The dew of God’s love? Has God forgotten us altogether? Did He ever really love us? Did we ever really know Him?
The desert can make us ask dark questions and face even darker temptations.
Mark writes, “And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him” (1:11).
Amidst harsh dehydration, God’s presence remains.
Instead of a rushing river, we find a lone detail: ministering angels.
Where are you living right now? Lush land? The lonely desert? Somewhere in between?
In that place, God’s presence may look different than you expect. He’s with you, for you, loving you—ready to minister to you in surprising ways.
This journey has been the most painful experience of my life.
Sharing about it requires some vulnerability. Okay, a lot of vulnerability. And, that’s really, really hard.
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. No one is more surprised than I am.
Two years before the diagnosis, I became obsessed with the more than 400 references of joy in Scripture. Two weeks from turning in a book on joy, I received the phone call that changed my life forever.
The entire project scrapped.
Up until that time, I had been searching for joy in the relatively good times of life. But, after cancer, I started to read those scriptures so differently as I moved from dew to dehydration.
I discovered facets of joy that no one ever taught me—more than whimsy, joy is a weapon we can use to fight life’s battles.
The thing is, no one signs up for that discovery project, finding joy in suffering. No one.
I’ve never felt so surefooted on my path to a joyful life. I know now that without shadows, joy can feel shallow. But, when we can discover joy while in the fight of our lives—no matter what that is—it is lasting.
Today, trust when it makes no sense?
Today, seek His presence when He feels so far away?
Today, fight back with joy?
Everyone who has faced a challenge, or who knows someone in the midst, needs to know that —
suffering doesn’t win.
Grab a hot cup of something warm & enjoy this peek at Margaret’s new Fight Back With Joy Bible study (Lifeway):
Margaret Feinberg is a bestselling author and speaker who lives with her husband, Leif, and superpup, Hershey, in Colorado. She believes some of the best days are spent in jammies, laughing, and being silly.
Whatever the battle, or the wilderness, or the dry place, there’s no better weapon than to Fight Back with Joy.