five little words

I live with chronic pain.

These five little words are difficult to speak. And yet after nearly two years of persistent episodes, hoping and praying for a miracle, I have only recently been able to admit them.

Pain. It’s coming has been marked by the calendar when I begin a monthly regimen of medication intended to alleviate the gravity of the onslaught to come. It’s beginning is a long and ominous shadow over the next few weeks, a solemn reminder that the wretched monster still abides deep within me.

It’s low bellows vibrate as it slumbers in between events, tossing and turning creating the occasional but manageable discomfort in its near dormant state.  Then suddenly and without warning it rises in full fury. Red eyed and fiery tongued, it’s painful scales press, tear and rend me from within.

There are days when I feel normal. When I do not live in fearful and anxious anticipation of its awakening. But they are woefully outnumbered by the days I wrestle with the truth of my condition and the current reality of my existence.

Sometimes I rant and sputter angry epitaphs and shake my fist at the heavens. Then there are days when I fall into a pit of despair. In the pit is a stagnant pool of isolation where the only current is one of spirit crushing affirmations that darken the mind.

Such ongoing resistance handcuffs us to pain and healthy habits as we focus on the negative experience.

It is in this place, when my body is weak and my flesh fails me, that I first uttered another set of five little words, a desperate concession:

Jesus, I trust in you.

Surprisingly the torrent of polluted waters began to drain and a fresh spring of words erupted:

Though I despair and fear threatens every moment of weakness, you are my strength.

Jesus I trust in you.

Though there seems to be no answers or relief in sight, I know you are the way, the truth, and the light.

Jesus I trust in you.

Because I am brokenhearted and crushed in spirit, and you became flesh to heal and to save me.

Jesus I trust in you.

Because I can let this broken jar of clay dim in soot and ash from the fires of the dragon within OR I can choose joy, choose grace, choose gratitude and let His glory radiate through me.

So more often of late than not, when the pain is unrelenting and renders me frail, I set myself at the father’s feet, take my eyes off of my present suffering and fix them on Him.

Jesus I trust in you.
Jesus I trust in you.
Jesus I trust in you.

As I recite my five little words, my lifeline in the fray, I’ve come to dwell in the realization that He is my sole source, my everything. All else fades away. And the dragon, though still noticeably present, miraculously quiets.

The journey to Joy leads to greater dependence on Christ.

I don’t know if one day the dragon will be uprooted and driven from this mountain, though that continues to be my prayer. But in the meantime, I’ve come to believe that this pain has come to give me a gift. Beneath the ashes, beneath the rubble, deep within the lava encrusted exterior there is a treasure to be discovered.

Jesus! I trust in you!

And so while I wait, I strive to draw closer to Christ and ask why this pain has come and seek what else it has to teach me.

Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know – Pena Chodron

As I press closer to know my Savior and abide in the full knowledge of God’s faithful and unfailing love and compassion for me, I have found a growing peace and tranquility that, even in crippling pain, surpasses all understanding.

A transcendence otherwise known as joy .


Want to read more about finding Joy in difficult circumstances?  Then consider Margaret Feinberg’s new book!  IMG_7111

 When Margaret learned she had cancer, she knew she would need great strength to overcome it. She believed the weapon she selected for the battle would change everything. And she decided that weapon would be joy.

Margaret shares her journey of using joy to fight back fear, regret, and pain. Whatever you face today, discover with Margaret how to embrace a way of living that’s deeper and fuller than you’ve ever  known–a life radiant with joy.


The Secret To Living A Defiant Joy: An interview with Margaret Feinberg

One of my favorite authors, Margaret Feinberg, has been through a brutal fight with cancer and shares the unexpected lessons she discovered along the way in her new book and Bible study Fight Back With Joy.

It’s been inspiring to learn how Margaret has been practicing a defiant joy, and I and thought you might like to get an insider’s look, a sneak peek of the video and read an interview with Margaret.

Preview the 6-Session DVD Bible Study, here.

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.

In Fight Back With Joy book and Bible study, you really push the reader to reevaluate their definition of joy. Why do you think this is so important?

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.

Pick up a copy of Fight Back With Joy at Amazon or Barnes and Noble today!


give it up

There is a general unwillingness to give up.

In our culture giving up is considered failure. Giving up is for losers, those that can’t cut it.  Attached with shame, embarrassment and weakness, it is unthinkable.

So we fight against it at all cost.

At all cost.

In other words, whatever needs to suffer, be compromised or given up in the process, we do.

We fight.
We sacrifice.
We tolerate.

Inevitably, at some point the cost ends up exceeding the value of what we are fighting for and yet we dig deeper, we get stubborn and then purely unreasonable in our strife.

There is nothing and no one that can convince us otherwise.

And when we’re deep down, we hit the vein.  We feel the pain.  It is the knowing.  It is the confession that wants to erupt because we see the folly in our efforts. We know the struggle is fruitless. We know that what we are giving, we can never recover or redeem. And yet, we press on, until the question we refuse to ask slowly begins to rise up.

When is it ok to give up?

When you have begun to discount yourself.

Give it up.

When you hold the “thing” greater than your worth and well-being.

Give it up.

When it becomes more valuable than your marriage, your family, your relationships, people in general.

Give it up.

Giving something up for the redemption of a person is always the greater good.  It is always the greater choice.

Even when the person is you.

Christ gave it up for people.  On the cross He bowed His head and gave up His spirit to the Father in heaven.

His shame.
His burden.
His sorrow.
Your pain.
Your sin.
Your shame.

It was not expected. Not how we would have thought he would go about it. Dying on a cross did not appear to be the actions of a Savior. It did not seem like he had saved or redeemed them.  It looked a lot like defeat.

But it wasn’t the end.

In John 10:18 Jesus said “I have the power to lay it down.”

The power.

He obtained a victory greater than what we could even fathom. Accomplishing more for eternity than any earthly toiling, struggle or battle could have obtained.  Not because he was weak or defeated, but because he had the power to lay it down and give it up.

He gave it up, and He won.

In many cases, giving takes more strength than fighting. What seemed to be weakness was strength unbridled and everlasting.

A voluntary surrender can be the threshold to redemption.

Give it up.