Breuel, René. The Paradox of Happiness: Finding True Joy in a World of Counterfeits. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2018. 95 pp.; Pb; $12.99. Link to Lexham
This small book is about finding happiness by encouraging the reader to stop buying the consumerist model the world is selling. Instead, René Breuel suggests following the model of Jesus and focus on serving one another. He says “I wrote The Paradox of Happiness, ironically, because I felt unhappy about our current understandings of happiness.”
The book is divided into three parts. First, Breuel destroys the “Drama of Modern Happiness.” Humans hunger for happiness, but modern culture only provides a “plastic happiness” which does not ultimate satisfy. Most people either deny or redefine happiness, chase artificial ideas of what makes someone happy, or even pursue imaginary pleasures. The problem, Breuel suggest is that these are all centered inwardly. We are trying make ourselves happy.
Jesus’ “paradoxical alternative” to this mindless pursuit of happiness is the subject of part two of the book. Breuel examines Jesus’s “paradoxical call” to take up one’s cross and follow Jesus (Mark 8:24-37). The goal of happiness can only be obtained if it ceases to be the goal (45). This kind of selflessness opens us up to the “banquet flourishing all around us” (50). It rejoices in the happiness of others.
For Breuel, following Jesus’ call to self-denial opens us up to proper expression of self and even self-love. He calls this the “the Rhythm of the Liberated Life” in part 3 of the book. By “living Jesus’ happiness” we escape the plastic happiness of modern life and live a life of genuine satisfaction.
The book is rich with illustrations from Breuel’s life, church history, theology, and pop culture. Breuel presents his ideas in clear prose, but those ideas will challenge the consumerist mindset of most western Christians.
Breuel (MSt, Oxford; MDiv, Regent College) is the founding pastor of Hopera, a church in Rome, Italy. Many of his illustrations in this book are draw from his like and work pastoring in Italy. Breuel blogs at renebreuel.com, is a contributor for Evangelical Focus, and is the editor of Wonderingfair.com.
NB: Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.