Staying Happy in an Unhappy World (by Marie Chapian)

I'd never heard of Marie Chapian. I didn't necessarily expect to find anything about her when I searched, so I was quite surprised to discover that she's quite a prolific writer. She is apparently fairly high-profile in the USA too. Reading about her online, it appears she has veered into 'prosperity gospel' teaching, which is not sound; had I realised, I might not have read this book, or at least would have started it from a different point of view. So perhaps it's just as well I didn't realise.

'Staying Happy in an Unhappy World' is one of those books that was sitting in our Christian bookcase, and I have NO idea where it came from. Perhaps I picked it up for a few pence on a church bookstall somewhere, or in a charity shop. Perhaps a visitor left it behind. I'm sure we didn't buy it new, and I don't think I've ever read it before.

It's an eighties-style book (which makes sense, since it was written in 1985) about being positive and taking control of our lives, from a broadly Christian perspective. It was quite thought-provoking in places, and generally well-written, although I was mildly irritated by the 'staying happy keys' that appeared every so often in fancy font. The word 'happy' didn't seem entirely appropriate either; it was more about grasping contentment. I didn't have a problem with the theology or the recommendations, although - being a reasonably contented person - much of it didn't really apply to me.

There are some useful questionnaires, which I guess could encourage unhappy people to think about their attitudes and behaviour. There were also some positive suggestions to live in the knowledge of the indwelling Christ. Quite readable and mostly encouraging, although she scoots very lightly over the problem of clinical (or even circumstantial) depression, which are considerably more serious than she implies.

Nor do I think it's necessarily right that all Christian believers should go around being 'happy' all the time - hence why I prefer the word 'contented'. But, overall, I thought it a good book. Now long out of print, but copies probably still lurk on charity shop bookshelves, and Christian bookstalls...

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 26th November 2009

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