Wednesday, August 23, 2017

'The Sacrament of Happy' by Lisa Harper


Imagine hearing your physician tell you that chips and queso contain more nutritional benefits than kale and quinoa. Or opening an envelope that looks like just another bill, and unfolding instead an official document declaring you the sole beneficiary of an anonymous billionaire’s estate.

In her new book, The Sacrament of Happy: Surprised by the Secret of Genuine Joy, Lisa Harper unveils a similarly extravagant, unexpected surprise, declaring that happiness—just plain feeling happy—is a gift from God that you can unashamedly enjoy.

I enjoy reading and reviewing the occasional book about happiness theories, as there's always a lot to get out of them. This one's sound premise attracted me. In years gone by, happiness got a bad wrap from dour Christians who thought it was based on shallow, swinging emotions, but in reality, God actually wants us to be happy. It may even be one of his major purposes for us. Lisa Harper reminds us that there are thousands of direct or closely related references to happiness in the Bible, which suggests that it might be our calling.

However, her style of writing frequently caused me to lose her thread. She begins sections with interesting questions, such as, 'How do we cultivate happy?' or 'How can we recover our happy?' or 'Can happy change the world?' Then she launches into long, humorous personal anecdotes that tend to ramble off on tangents. Reading the book became an exercise of seeing how she could wind her stories back to the points she was trying to make. In fact sometimes they went on for so long that I had to keep flipping back to remind myself what the initial question even was.

Harper doesn't always make allowances for different temperaments either. 'How does happiness express itself?' is a good example. Her self-proclaimed temperament is different from mine. Harper is energetic, loud and sanguine, and some of her advice seems crafted for people who are similarly wired. Those of us who enjoy more low-key styles of happiness can find good points in the book too, though. And some advice is great across the board, such as regularly frisking our thoughts, making sure we keep moving, and exercising intentional gratitude.

I could imagine this author being a stand-up comedian and getting crowds laughing, which I'm sure she does. Overall, it's not a bad book, although you may find some parts more relevant than others for you.

Thanks to B&H Publishing Group and NetGalley for my review copy.



  1. I'm glad you pointed out that personality assumption, Paula. I find it's common in many Christian non-fiction books. God made us all different for a reason, and I can't see how all of us being bubbly, sociable people would make for a very versatile church!

    1. It's so true, Claire. In many ways, the modern Western church isn't an easy place for introverts to find ourselves. I've been enjoying the greater focus on introverts in good books in recent years and hope it continues.