Manual Joy - The Christian Guide to Happiness

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Happiness is becoming one with and being transformed by the unsurpassable love and goodness that is found only in God. Happiness is holiness. This discovery inspired what are perhaps the most heartfelt and memorable words Augustine ever wrote. At the beginning of the Confessions , the story of Augustine's conversion, which is a book that is meant to be read as an unfolding prayer to God, he says: "You … have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you.

Augustine claimed that happiness is inseparable from goodness, specifically the absolutely captivating and incomparably beautiful goodness that is found in God. Loving God wholeheartedly and faithfully is happiness, because God is the supreme and most excellent good in whose image we are made and in whose love we are completed.

Even more, loving God wholeheartedly and faithfully is happiness, because we become what we love and gradually are made one with what we love. This is why suffering does not have to imperil happiness. If God is our good, and we become one with God through love, then the spiritual communion we have with God that is happiness abides at the very center of our lives and is deeper and stronger than any sorrow that may visit us or any affliction that may come upon us.

How To Have Joy That Is Contagious

If happiness depends on health, financial security, power, physical or mental ability or just having things go our way more often than not, then any appearance of suffering jeopardizes happiness. But if the essence of happiness is growing in the love and goodness of God in order to share intimately in the life of God, then no suffering and no sorrow are powerful enough to rob us of joy. This is precisely why in Romans , the apostle Paul could exultantly proclaim: "What will separate us from the love of Christ?

Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No matter how intense and how prolonged, suffering cannot snatch joy from us because nothing, Paul insists, "will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. We may be able to find good in our suffering, but suffering itself is not good. No one wants to suffer, because suffering comes between us and the lives we want to have. Too, suffering threatens our sense of ourselves and our trust in the meaning and purpose of life.

Anyone struggling with a serious illness, the unexpected loss of a job, the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship knows this is true. We may endure suffering, but we do not seek it, because by its very nature suffering "restricts, victimizes, oppresses, and deprives.

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Like an unwelcome guest, suffering forces us to readjust our lives in ways that we never would have chosen and often resent. We have goals we want to accomplish and hopes for the future, but suffering distances us from those goals and weakens those hopes. Indeed, suffering can make us question and rethink everything. This is why to claim that suffering and joy need not be diametrically opposed is, at the same time, neither to minimize nor to deny the substantial pain, sorrow and hardship that suffering can bring into our lives.

Suffering is not our joy, God is. And, again, this means not that suffering is good, but that suffering need not separate us from God, who is our greatest good and the source and summit of our happiness. This was the wisdom of the saints. As author Robert Ellsberg notes, the saints "did not believe that suffering is 'good' but that God is good and that 'neither death nor life … nor height, nor depth' can deprive us of access to that good if we truly desire it.


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They found that there is no place that is literally 'godforsaken,' but that in every situation, even the most grim and painful, there is a door that leads to love, to fullness of life … to happiness. In short, the saints teach us that joy is not a matter of escaping suffering, but of being in God.

That narrative begins with Easter, the great feast that celebrates the bedrock truth of our lives: Death may be real, but love is stronger. Take away Easter, and death wins. Leave Jesus in the tomb and death, evil and darkness triumph. The heart of the Easter message is that death may be real — and so are suffering, loss and evil — but none of them ultimately prevails, because in the resurrection of Jesus, God overcame everything that assails our hopes, everything that tempts us to live in fear, anxiety and even despair.

8 Tips to Become a Happier Christian

Easter testifies that in God we do not encounter a love that tries its best but ultimately fails; rather, Easter boldly proclaims that in God we find a love powerful, faithful, resilient and creative enough to bring things to life not just once, but again and again. The resurrection of Jesus affirms a portrait of God first sketched in the creation accounts of Genesis. If God called things into being at the dawn of creation and delighted in that creation, Easter witnesses that God calls us into being again and again, because not even death will undo what God's creative love began.

A message of Easter is that every human being, as well as all of creation, is rejoiced in by God. Any person who finds his or her identity in this truth can live in joy and hope, even amid great suffering. In the Gospel of John , when Jesus speaks of himself as the "good shepherd," this is exactly what he means. He suggests that eternal life is not our end point, it is our starting point.

It is not the life we hope for, but the reality in and from which we always live.

Your book Happiness challenges the idea that God wants his followers to be holy but not happy. What do you mean? The death of sin is the life of joy. Randy Alcorn: It matters immensely. An unhappy God would never value nor assure the everlasting happiness of his creatures. We would never ask for grace from an ungracious God, kindness from an unkind God, or happiness from an unhappy God.

It would be like asking a poor man for a million dollars.

If God were not happy, the fact that all people seek to be happy—as Augustine, Aquinas, Pascal, the Puritans, Wesley, Spurgeon, and many others have observed—would be a cruel tragedy, since it would mean that God cannot give us what we most deeply desire. At best he might deliver us from the miseries of Hell. But Heaven can overflow with happiness only if God himself overflows with happiness. The Bible frequently depicts God as being delighted and pleased, and twice God is described as makarios 1 Tim.

Randy Alcorn: We imagine sharp distinctions between Hebrew and Greek synonyms and also the chosen English words, such as joyful, glad, or happy. Only when we recognize how meanings overlap in words from the same semantic domain, or word family, will we be saved from making artificial distinctions between the corresponding English words. In fact, these words are far more alike than different.

Randy Alcorn: In the Beatitudes see Matthew and Luke , the word makarios occurs repeatedly. First-century readers of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke also knew the meaning of makarios.

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Be Happy: An Interview with Randy Alcorn - Bible Gateway Blog

Unfortunately, I believe the modern church is often driven more by duty than delight in God. The misguided distinction between joy and happiness has played a part in driving people away from the happiness the Gospel offers. The point A vicar in the centre of Blackpool says poverty will only be The Catholic Church in England and Wales has said it's starting A United Nations Special Rapporteur looking into the arbitrary The Pursuit of Happiness. Is it possible to will yourself happy? Should we even try? What is happiness? About the Author. Lucinda van der Hart.