Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Happiness Defined

Reviewed by Derek Melleby

David Naugle, in his new book, Reordered Love, Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness (Eerdmans, 2008), points readers toward a recent study of Americans. The research showed that while the U.S. highly values “happiness,” it came in number 23 on a list of the world’s happiest countries. Naugle writes, “Though there is significant disagreement on what happiness is and how to get it, there is substantial agreement in recognizing it as the bull’s eye on the target at which we aim our lives.” But here’s the problem as Naugle explains: “Scientific, economic and cultural forces have produced a paradigm shift in the way most people understand happiness. It has morphed in the minds of many Americans into a promise of sustained pleasure and painlessness.”

Reordered Love, Reordered Lives invites readers to consider what we should aim for to obtain a truly “happy life.” Naugle suggests that we need “not a hedonistic but an ‘edenistic’ happiness that roots the fullness of human life in God and his creation.” This type of happiness only comes when we learn to love the right things. “The happy life consists of learning how to love both God supremely and the world in the right way at the very same time.”

Using illustrations from history, pop culture and Scripture, Naugle makes a strong case for how followers of Christ can (re)learn how to live a “happy” (properly defined), good life. The book is deep, but accessible, and would be good reading for parents and youth workers as they help young people better understand what true happiness really is. And, truth be told, the message of the book is one we all need to be continually reminded of: Our happiness is found in our love for God.

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