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Sacrament of Happy Q&A with Lisa Harper

Lisa Harper joins us to discuss happiness and her book The Sacrament of Happy.

Lisa Harper joins us to discuss happiness and her book The Sacrament of Happy.

 

Q. Tell us about yourself and your family.  

A. I was hot-mess-on-a-stick in my twenties and thirties, totally sabotaged the possibility of marriage, and thus missed the window of biological motherhood. The fact that God radically restored the years I’d allowed locusts to gobble by giving me the inestimably valuable gift of becoming Missy’s mom the same year I turned 50 has left me discombobulated -- hopefully for the rest of my days -- with gratitude.   My daughter is a radiant, chatty, wiggly, witty, brilliant, beautiful 7-year-old Haitian (whose first mama died of AIDS, unwittingly infecting her with HIV, which is now completely undetectable by the grace of God!). And please rest assured that I am very levelheaded and decidedly unbiased about her because that’s just how I roll. 

Q. What does happiness look like in your own life?  

A. It looks like a sipping sweet tea in a rocking chair on a wide front porch…under a tin roof during a Spring rainstorm…while your dog is napping at your feet and making crazy circles with one hind leg because she’s chasing bunnies in her sleep. It is the feeling of contentment, fulfillment and delight all rolled into one. It is the state of being we’re blessed to enjoy and called to inhabit as God’s covenant people.  

Q. What are the most common misconceptions you’ve seen that women have about happiness?  

  1. That happiness is a far less “spiritual” emotion than joy, so it’s best to jettison happiness like a set of arm floaties once you begin swimming in the deep waters of intimacy with God.
  2. That happiness is based on our circumstances -- on “happenstance” -- instead of a relationship with Jesus.
  3. That happiness means the absence of sadness.  

Q. Why is it so important that we understand that happiness is a gift of God we need to enjoy?  

A. God chose us. The King of all kings, who is perfectly content, fulfilled, and self-sustainably happy in His Trinitarian sufficiency, chooses to include us in His glorious joy. He leaned down from glory not because He needs us but because He wants to be with us. He picked us to be part of His good pleasure because He loves us unconditionally. We can’t earn His acceptance and affection; we can’t undermine it; and nothing -- no hardship, heartbreak or even death -- can separate us from it. And when believers cling to that truth, to the firm belief that God is good and God does good and God loves us no matter what our current circumstances are, it not only keeps us in perfect peace, it has the power to dispel hopelessness in the world around us. But when we wrongfully refuse or marginalize God’s glorious gift of true happiness, we emasculate the Gospel. Theologian and pastor Randy Alcorn puts it like this: “The modern evangelical antipathy to happiness backfires when it portrays Christianity as being against what people long for most.”

Q. Are you on the other side of any parenting, personal, or work challenges that you would like to talk about to encourage others reading?  

A. I have totally conquered the potentially crippling guilt (largely perpetrated by minivan-driving, Pinterest-addicted, Paleo-devoted-therefore-hangry other moms) regarding baking bland, homemade treats for my daughter or anyone else’s offspring. I happily burned my hand-painted apron after discovering the great plethora of snacks for sale at Whole Foods. They even have gluten free options available if you’re determined to remain captive in your wee, dark cell imprisoned by grain-free bars and masochistic, tortilla-free meaninglessness.

Q. What do you hope readers will gain from reading The Sacrament of Happy?  

A. I hope the stiffest of churchgoers with quilted Bible covers, the wildest of rebels with colorful tattoos and crazy piercings, and everyone who falls somewhere in between will lean further into God’s acceptance and affection. I’ll be absolutely thrilled if even one reader’s shame lifts as they begin to believe that God cheers Himself hoarse over every ungainly cartwheel they do in His glorious backyard. That He makes over every stick-figure drawing we present to Him and displays it on His refrigerator in glory. That despite the fact humanity is prone to wander and has a proclivity to make huge messes, our Creator-Redeemer is so completely for us!

Alas, one of my favorite theologians, Dr. Charles Spurgeon (I have a platonic crush on several Godly, literary geniuses like him, C.S. Lewis, A.W. Tozer and Francis Schaeffer), explains what I hope readers will gain from reading my infinitely-inferior-than-the-notes-they-threw-away book better than I can: As there is the most heat nearest to the sun, so is the most happiness nearest to Christ.

"May all those who seek you be happy and rejoice in you! (Psalm 40:16 NET)"

LifeWay Staff

In her new book, The Sacrament of Happy: What a Smiling God Brings to a Wounded World, Lisa Harper unveils that happiness is a gift from God that we can unashamedly enjoy. Happiness tends to be cast as a fluffy emotion without substance rather than a biblical concept, but this is not theologically accurate. Wearing the twin hats of both seminarian and belly-laughing adoptive mom, Lisa Harper dismantles the old-school idea that joy, not happiness, is the truly spiritual emotion, and asserts that Christ-followers are actually called to happiness.

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