I'm not sure why, but when I ordered Randy Alcorn's latest book, Happiness, I was expecting an average length trade paperback. I was (happily) surprised to receive a huge, 481-page hardcover. This is truly the definitive work on happiness and the Christian life. It's absolutely jam-packed with theology, historical resources, quotes, practical advice, and lots of interesting stories to add a cherry on top. The book is divided into four large sections: Our Compelling Quest For Happiness, The Happiness Of God, The Bible's Actual Words For Happiness, and Understanding And Experiencing Happiness in God. There's also an Introduction and two Appendices, plus exhaustive end notes. The book description reads:
"Christians are supposed to be happy. In fact, we are supposed to radiate joy, peace, and contentment that is so unmistakable and so attractive that others are naturally drawn to us because they want what we have. And yet, in today’s culture, the vast majority of Christians are perceived as angry, judgmental people who don’t seem to derive any joy from life whatsoever. So why aren’t we happy?
Unfortunately, many Christians are taught early on that God doesn’t want us to be happy (he wants us to be holy). In fact, many Christians are laboring under the false notion that God himself is not happy. But nothing could be further from the truth! God does want us to be happy. The Bible is filled with verses that prove that ours is a happy, joy-filled God who not only loves celebrations but also desperately wants his children to be happy. Why else would He go to the lengths He did to ensure our eternal happiness in His presence? We know that we will experience unimaginable joy and happiness in Heaven, but that doesn’t mean we can’t also experience joy and happiness here on earth.
In Happiness, noted theologian Randy Alcorn dispels centuries of misconceptions about happiness and provides indisputable proof that God not only wants us to be happy, He commands it. The most definitive study on the subject of happiness to date, this book is a paradigm-shifting wake-up call for the church and Christians everywhere."
Although this is a long, very theologically-intensive book, Alcorn manages to make it very interesting and accessible to the layman. Personally, in the last 11 years I've been a Christian, I've heard the phrases "God wants us to be holy, not happy" and "God is more concerned with our holiness than our happiness" more times than I can count. I believe there is some truth to those statements, and they come from a good place and mean well, however the Bible also tells us that Jesus said, "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." (John 16:23). I think there is a healthy balance here. Yes, we absolutely need to be holy (1 Peter 1:16 - be ye holy, for I am holy). However, being saved Christians with the promise of Heaven should make us the happiest people on Earth! Alcorn makes an excellent point that no one will want to learn more about Jesus or become a Christian if we look miserable and unhappy all the time. I think this book is an extremely important work that should bee read by every Christian. Highly recommended.