Happiness is a G-rated theme
People say happiness is for kids. For naïve, simplistic folks who buy into easy steps and who have not yet bumped against the complexities of life.
I disagree. Happiness is a serious, vital theme, especially for pastors and Christian leaders. It’s a theme begging for Christian reflection—the word holds within itself a whole cosmos, because our understanding of happiness is our understanding of life. It is a token of our soul, a window into our worldview, and the surest sign of what we prize and what we live for.
I’ve been rather unhappy about our current understandings of happiness. Not only does someone reflecting on happiness today feel dumbed down—“buy this product,” “get this gorgeous,” “follow the seven magical steps”—but (and here I get really worked up) there seems to be no real Christian alternative. Christians have just bought into our consumer society’s definition of happiness without thinking it through critically, and have substituted the self-help steps to happiness with Christian terminology. Rough edges are smoothed and spiritual language is sprinkled, but the approach is still the same: self-centered, self-serving.
Is there an alternative Christian understanding of happiness?
I went on an experiment. Could a Christian understanding of happiness actually spring out of our core beliefs about reality? And could this alternative be not just well-meaning, but really happy, happier than any other alternative?
It was a fascinating experiment. I went back to Jesus and to what I feel is his key insight into life—that we gain life when we lose life, and that we do so when we deny ourselves and take up our crosses to follow him. The result of that reflection is my book, The Paradox of Happiness. And with the book comes a wish: I hope readers come out of the book less worried about their own happiness and, paradoxically, happier than before. I hope they live serenely and joyously because they are less self-oriented.
We don’t find happiness when we try to fulfill our desires—we find it when we stop looking for it and start focusing on serving others. Happiness according to Jesus is generous and unexpected: by letting go, we find; by giving, we receive. Happy are those who share their happiness.
* * *
Begin your journey to true happiness. Download The Paradox of Happiness today.