In The Lost Virtue of Happiness, J.P. Moreland and Klaus Issler attempt to address the growing epidemic of depression that is sweeping the Western world. In a day and age where life is filled with luxuries- air conditioned homes, televisions, and fast food at every corner- people are becoming more and more miserable. What could possibly be wrong?
Moreland and Issler contend that the problem is the redefinition of ‘happiness’ that has occurred in the modern period. Whereas happiness used to be defined as a life full of virtue and character, it is now being conceived as merely a sense of pleasurable satisfaction. Since pleasurable feelings come and go, people are doomed to live an unstable life of ups and downs, while the consumerist culture mindset serves to convince them that they don’t have enough.
The cure is to return to a more stable definition of happiness that is based on a life of love and service to God. Only in relation to the kingdom of God can we truly live the life humans were meant to. And, by giving up the relentless pursuit for the next thrill, we can find a sense of meaning and satisfaction to our lives that will last.
Throughout the book, Moreland and Issler provide discussions of how we can use the spiritual disciplines to gain a sense of purpose and grow closer to God. Combining personal experience, clear thinking, and Biblical principles, the authors are able to provide good discussions and some useful suggestions for how we can use these disciplines to improve our lives. For example, the authors recommend offering a brief prayer to God many times during the day. I have found this very helpful for keeping God on my mind and refreshing my prayer life. Although not all of the suggestions may be useful to everyone, the practical applications provided in The Lost Virtue of Happiness add to its value. Moreover, the book is simple and should be very accessible for almost everyone.
As Christians, we have all the resources necessary to live a meaningful and happy life. We simply need to lay aside our own narrow self-interest and pursue a much greater purpose. As Jesus said, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” [Matthew 6:33] We can only enjoy the smaller pleasures of life to the fullest degree when we give up the pursuit of self-interest and live for God and His kingdom. This message, expressed so well in this book, is one that every person needs to hear.