26 February 2015

Book Review: The Happy Christian

I am not naturally a pessimist, though when I saw David Murray's latest book The Happy Christian: Ten Ways to be a Joyful Believer in a Gloomy World (Thomas Nelson, 2015), I was a bit skeptical. To be clear, I have a deep appreciation for Dr Murray and I am a committed fan to his blog. As a Christian psychologist and editor of the newsletter for the Society for Christian Psychology, I believe that Dr Murray is one of the bright lights of the movement. I have put his little book, Christians Get Depressed Too, into the hands of many people. Yet, when I read the the title, "The Happy Christian", I worried. To clarify, I do believe that the Christian faith leads to a joy and happiness that is unparalleled in other worldviews, yet to me, it seems too easy to communicate the message that one must be happy to be a Christian. I do not believe that the biblical record reflects happiness as a requirement for the believer. Still, Murray is a wise man and I was eager to read what he chose to share.

Murray presented 10 ways to be joyful:
  1. Happy Facts: Facts > Feelings
  2. Happy Media: Good News > Bad News
  3. Happy Salvation: Done > Do
  4. Happy Church: Christ > Christians
  5. Happy Future: Future > Past
  6. Happy World: Everywhere Grace > Everywhere Sin
  7. Happy Praise: Praise > Criticism
  8. Happy Giving: Giving > Getting
  9. Happy Work: Work > Play
  10. Happy Differences: Diversity > Uniformity
If I am honest, after the first chapter, my hopes for this book cooled, though in hindsight, I am not sure why. Murray essentially presented a way of examining how we think grounded in a cognitive behavioral model. I think my initial concern was that although extremely beneficial, an exclusively cognitive behavioral approach would be limited. I also had fears that this book would be a recycling of previous writers like Norman Vincent Peale, though Murray quickly set that fear to rest. 

As I continued to read, I was reminded why I like Dr Murray so much. He addresses a broad range of issues and how they can influence the life of the Christian. Briefly, for example, he shows the reader how too much immersion in negative news can be psychologically damaging, how focusing on the past can be problematic, and how giving freely is freedom giving.

Considering how I tend to think, I was particularly drawn to chapter 3, which has to do with Happy Salvation. Murray reminds us, as Christians, that when Jesus said from the cross that it is finished, that he meant it. That has very practical implications for our own happiness. In that chapter he wrote, "What are the ten most disbelieved letters in the Bible? N...O...T...O...F...W...O...R...K...S"  Amen.

Overall, I was very happy with Dr Murray's new book. I would gladly put it into the hands of any believer. It is biblical, practical, and wise.

In exchange for this review, I was provided with a free copy of this book by Thomas Nelson and the Book Look Bloggers Program. I was not required to submit a positive review of this book. 

1 comment:

Norma said...

I too was skeptical--I'm so tired of "happy clappy" anything--including worship. And unlike you, I wasn't familiar with his body of work. But I am loving this book. Really solid. Even his personal examples, which are few, are good.