Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn't Enough
Kay Warren is an author, speaker, Bible teacher, and founder of the HIV & AIDS Initiative at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, which she cofounded with her husband, Rick Warren. No stranger to suffering herself as a two-time cancer survivor, Warren unabashedly tells her personal life story and how she chose joy amidst heartrending pain.
"Encouraging and enlightening, Warren helps bridge the gap between the biblical definition of joy and the world’s concept of happiness. She does a wonderful job making herself relatable, and readers will find themselves walking along this journey of discovery with an amiable companion."
Noting the distinction between happiness (not being enough) and joy (stemming from an inner source completely separate from outward circumstances or ever-changing emotions), Warren shares how Christ followers can take steps to live more joyful lives. She divides her inspirational resource into four parts, each segment focusing on a specific element of joy: “My Inheritance: Embracing the Permission to Be Joyful”; “Joy Is a Conviction of My Mind: Discovering a New Way of Thinking”; “Joy Is a Condition of My Heart: Cultivating a Soul-Response That Allows Joy to Deepen”; and “Joy Is a Choice of My Behavior: Ways to Choose Joy Daily.”
Each chapter is full of personal stories (and admissions of struggle and failure) from Warren, and she describes herself as a contemplative, serious-minded, somewhat depressed Eeyore and her gregarious fun-loving husband as Tigger. While readers may chuckle at Warren’s personality bent, it actually serves to give her book even more credibility. If she were a super positive ultra-extrovert type of person, would a message on cultivating daily joy be taken as seriously? Probably not. Warren details the frequent first-responses she yields to during life’s toughest moments, and is the first to admit that responding with joy and thankfulness is hard work.
Describing life as a parallel train tracks scenario rather than “waves of good and pleasant circumstances followed by a wave of bad and unpleasant circumstances,” Warren now realizes that life is more like a running train track of daily joy and sorrow that’s usually inseparable. So how vital is it for individuals to learn to live on both of these tracks at the same time? As Warren reminds Christians, there is nowhere on earth where these twin components won’t be entwined.
One of the book’s nicest surprises is Warren’s challenge to spark joy in others. She opens this chapter with a description of her early marriage problems with Rick and how they had to learn to communicate, learn each other’s differences, and learn to build each other up. Warren does a nifty job of tying in the principle of attaining joy through action steps of unconditional love toward others. Just a few of her suggestions include: determine to believe the best about people; offer nonjudgmental love; empathize with others’ feelings; appreciate others’ efforts; and know that change is possible.
Encouraging and enlightening, Warren helps bridge the gap between the biblical definition of joy and the world’s concept of happiness. She does a wonderful job making herself relatable, and readers will find themselves walking along this journey of discovery with an amiable companion.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on May 23, 2012