Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Happy Christian by David Murray

A few months ago, before the wretchedness of another freezing cold winter finally melted into the beautiful spring I see outside as I write this, I did something I don't do a whole lot of, I accepted a Christian book for review.  It probably doesn't make any sense for my blog, I don't share a lot about my Christian faith here, even though it undoubtedly means a lot to me and is at the heart of who I am (and want to be!), so I know I probably don't have a big audience for such a review here.  That said, I am a Christian, and this past winter I was struggling with unhappiness in a major way for no especially apparent reason, so when the pitch for The Happy Christian: Ten Ways to Be a Joyful Believer in a Gloomy World appeared in my mailbox, I suspected it could be just the sort of book I could benefit from reading.  I don't intend to preach at anybody, but I hope you'll bear with me while I share about a good book that's not my usual fare.

It's tough to be happy, even in a time and place where a lot of people have relatively more peace, more wealth, and more freedom than ever.  We live in a world where, thanks to the 24 hour news cycle, we can be bombarded by bad news literally all the time.  Time or distance no longer separate us from the pain of the world at large, which is great if we can pray and even physically lend a hand, but can also lead to sense of hopelessness as images of catastrophe and injustice come to us from all over the world.  Even without that, there's our own brains that start to work against us, trained from a young age to critique and pick out the bad and set about the project of correcting it, it's not always easy for us to zoom in on the good in any situation.  In our daily race against the clock to accomplish all the things on our to do list before another day is lost, it's all too easy to get down and depressed about all the things we're not doing and all the less than ideal situations we can't fix until pessimism is always the order of the day.  Murray observes all this in The Happy Christian and then gets down to applying gospel truths and modern positive psychology in a series of "formulas" meant to help us escape from the downward spiral of hopelessness it's too easy to get trapped in.

Murray's decision to marry up psychology with biblical teaching is an interesting and effective one.  Murray's chapters are filled with the scientific value of optimism, prescriptions for how much negativity can be mixed with positivity to still live a hopeful, happy life, and scientific evidence for the daily practice of more positive habits that can be exercised by Christians in conjunction with their faith.  In the course of it all, Murray makes a good case for how modern positive psychology is is right in line with God's will and promise for our lives.

Though I appreciated the psychology aspect, I was much more in tune with the chapters that leaned more on biblical teaching.  The chapter about our daily duel with our to-do lists that always ends in disappointment was cast in a different light when Murray reminds readers that Jesus's work, the hardest and most important, is already done.  Additionally, the chapter about taking more joy in our work by doing everything with passion and honesty to the glory of God, and how that can give meaning and purpose to even the most insignificant of jobs, really hit home.  Murray even closes with a very prescient topic for this day and age: diversity.  In this chapter he makes a great case for God's desire to reach all nations and for how diversifying our communities and our churches is key in future joy as we each stand to reap the benefits of plugging in every race and culture's strengths into a united church.

On the whole, I was impressed and encouraged by Murray's book and came away with some great insights.  Additionally, I was impressed that Murray, in addition to providing solid reasoning and theology, took the next step and provided readers of The Happy Christian with practical and often biblical ways to start introducing more hope and positivity into our lives, a practical aspect missing from too many Christian books.  I'd encourage anybody who is wondering why happiness seems to be a little too hard to hold onto, to give Murray's book a read and hope that it changes your perspective the way it changed mine.
Whatever you will complete or not today, rest in the only work that will never need to be done again.  Rest in the fact that Jesus has done the most impossible job in the world, done it perfectly, and made it available.  Take it.  Enjoy it.  Build your life on it.  Let it change your whole view of your life and work.  Use His work to put your work in perspective.  Believe His work is counted as yours.  Despite all that you fear and dread about the next ten hours - a critical boss, a vicious competitor, a looming deadline, a complaining customer, an impossible sales target, unrelenting children, monotonous drudge - you have Christ's perfect work credited to your account.  Yes, it is counted as yours, as if you did it.  Are you humble enough to receive it?

(Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a free copy for review consideration.)


  1. I enjoyed your post today very much, very insightful and not preachy at all.

  2. This sounds like a good book for anyone seeking more happiness, in this world that can be dark. As I heard in church today, when we follow Jesus we won't go wrong.