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Thursday, November 10, 2016

"A Different Kind of Happiness" (Larry Crabb)

TITLE: A Different Kind of Happiness: Discovering the Joy That Comes from Sacrificial Love
AUTHOR: Larry Crabb
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2016, (256 pages).

Is there a difference between happiness and joy? How many kinds of happiness are there? How can happiness ever last? Is happiness something so temporal that Christians should not pursue it? Is it ok to seek happiness? How can we be happy when things do not turn out our way? Where does true happiness actually come from? These questions are dealt with in this very insightful book about the search for happiness via relationships. In a very personal book that probes deep into the human psyche and the spirituality of happiness, the key message in this book is about how to obtain a happiness that is true and can be sustained. He points out three kinds of path toward happiness. The first group are those struggling in perpetual unhappiness owing to difficult circumstances. They see the world as unjust, cruel, and unfair. They find it hard to even have a glimpse of happiness. The second group see happiness linked to blessings received. The problem is, when the blessings disappear, so do the happiness. For the third group, true happiness comes through a celebration of relationships and sustained through a thirst and hunger for God.

Part One of the book talks about the good news of God that often comes across as unattractive, even bad sounding. Who would want to live like Jesus especially when he was seen bullied, humiliated, and crucified on the cross? Yet, something drives Him. When bad things happen to us, the gospel can seem so irrelevant. We are called to walk the narrow path. We are encouraged to pray the prayer that God always answers. We are exhorted to trust and obey God's Word. Crabb leads us to that chapter of emptiness to stir up a hunger for God alone, a hope in God alone, and an honesty that only God can save and help us. In the "Three Faces of Entitlement," we are given three types of challenges about discipleship. The first is to love God until our other relationships appear like hatred. The second is to deny ourselves and carry our crosses. The third is to relinquish all we own and surrender. In other words, the cost of discipleship is about depending on God alone; not demanding on complete personal satisfaction; and humbly accepting that we deserve nothing good in the first place.

Part Two expands on the part of relationship as discipleship. In fact, this path is only possible once we are in the state of neediness and emptiness. This is also the stage of spiritual warfare that forces us to ask what story we represent. Crabb calls it the "Seven Questions of Spiritual Theology."

  1. Who is God?
  2. What is He up to?
  3. Who are we?
  4. What's gone wrong?
  5. What has God done about our problems?
  6. How is the Spirit working to implement the divine solution to our human problem?
  7. How can we cooperate with the Spirit's work?

These questions help us fine-tune our understanding of spiritual happiness and how God is very much a part of the 'different kind of happiness.' These prepare us for Part Three, which is an invitation to write our own stories. The author shares about his own cancer treatment and describes the toggling between his first concerns and second things. He shows us the way in asking questions regarding our personal attitude toward: 1)Walking the narrow way; 2) living in the larger story; 3) engaging the battle in a loving way; and 4) looking at life from above rather than under the sun.

Crabb is previously well known for his book "Shattered Dreams" and counseling. His area of expertise is about helping the broken and people struggling with life's issues. Writing about happiness seems to be a totally different cup of tea. This book sits between the reality of a difficult world and the hope of a new world; the struggle of living in an old story and the exhortation to seek toward a new story; and to experience true joy not because of earthly blessings but in spite of the presence or absence of such blessings. It is a book that challenges us to take seriously the call to discipleship; to walk the narrow path with faith; and to always maintain a light of hope on God. Crabb articulates the arguments with an acute understanding of what it means to be living in a tough world.

This book is very readable and Crabb is an experienced guide in helping us work through our own issues. At the same time, he does not shy away from pointing our attention consistently on Jesus and to live like Jesus, hope in Jesus, and to thirst after God, just like Jesus. As he straddles in and out of cancer tests and treatments, Crabb knows what it means to be disappointed and discouraged. At the same time, he knows the Bible and the promises in it. Let me close with a meaningful passage from the book.

"When we realize that the joy of advancing the purpose of God, of bringing God's relational kingdom of love into our community by putting Jesus-like love on display, even to those who hurt us deeply, is i fact first thing happiness, we will then be in position to battle for a better love. Spirit-filled disciples of Jesus will then know we are equipped and empowered to enter that battle, to love like Jesus even in our darkest moments, and to know the joy of pressing on toward our highest purpose: to enjoy God as our greatest good and to display Him by how we relate as our greatest privilege." (244)

Dr Larry Crabb is a popular psychologist, conference speaker, author, and Bible teacher. He is currently scholar-in-residence at Colorado Christian University in Denver and visiting professor of Spiritual Formation for Richmond Graduate University in Atlanta. His website is at "NewWay Ministries."

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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