Thursday 27 July 2017

Book Review: “The Sacrament of Happy: What a Smiling God brings to a Wounded World” – Lisa Harper (B&H Publishing Group)

Review by Natalie McNee

Imagine hearing your physician tell you that chips and queso contain more nutritional benefits than kale and quinoa. Or opening an envelope that looks like just another bill, and unfolding instead an official document declaring you the sole beneficiary of an anonymous billionaire’s estate.
In her new book, The Sacrament of Happy: What a Smiling God Brings to a Wounded World, Lisa Harper unveils a similarly extravagant, unexpected surprise, declaring that happiness—just plain feeling happy—is a gift from God that you can unashamedly enjoy.
Wearing the twin hats of seminarian and belly-laughing adoptive mom, Harper delivers a warm, vignette style built upon solid theological scaffolding. She observes, for example, that God’s choice of wording for the first verse of the first psalm (a word often translated as “blessed”) literally means happy—one of many biblical reasons for dismantling the old-school idea that joy, not happiness, is the truly spiritual one of the Christian family. In truth, they’re more like fraternal twins than distant cousins, meaning we as Christ-followers are not called to jettison happiness—like a no-longer-needed set of spiritual floaties—as we learn to swim in the deep waters of intimacy with God. Beyond merely a circumstances-based, up-and-down emotion, happiness comes from a deep conviction in the unmitigated goodness of our Creator-Redeemer, freeing us to feel and express genuine joy, fulfillment, and contentment, regardless of personal or global tumult.
The author’s personal story includes such happiness killers as sexual abuse, the deaths of near loved ones, a heartbreaking failed adoption, followed by the arrival of an adopted daughter from Haiti who is HIV-positive. Yet she writes on themes like: “The lost sacrament of laughter”—“Does happy have a personality type?”—“Tuning out the Pharisees who try to mute your happiness in the context of spiritual maturity.” So this is obviously not a book of trite, untested clichés. It goes well beneath most people’s surface understanding of happiness, gently guiding readers closer to the heart of God . . . with naturally a few genuine laughs and grins to enjoy along the way.

Lisa Harper’s latest release “The Sacrament of Happy: What a Smiling God brings to a Wounded World” is an enjoyable and thought provoking read. It had me laughing out loud at some of her life stories and nodding my head in agreement at her less-than-savoury choices in the dating department. But most of all the book made me question my own life and emotional choices and often I would stop and ask the question, “Am I happy?”

Miss Harper is a wonderful storyteller who expertly unfolds scripture verses to reveal their true meanings. The teachings are not super spiritual or heavy but are easy to understand and make for good practical application into one’s own life. Each chapter ends with question prompts allowing the reader time for reflection.

There are only two niggly issues about the book – the first being the formatting of the e-book (which is not Miss Harper’s fault but that of the publishing house) which had headings directly under the paragraphs with no clear breaks and the sizing of the fonts were distracting. I was also disappointed at the ending; I felt that it ended abruptly and it left me expecting and wanting more.

This book is suited to all Christians, but I would say more so to Mothers as they will be able to relate to the stories Miss Harper shares. I still highly recommend this book if not for making you take stock of your own happiness then for its message - that God is a happy God who has a sense of humour, He is utterly delighted and happy with us and with our eyes fixed on Him we can have our cake and eat it too!

I was given an advanced copy of this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

As a mother to a tween and a toddler, Natalie McNee gets the best of both tantrum worlds. Her only escape is to turn the crazy stories and dialogues in her head into exciting children’s books. She is married to a bouncer, so you don’t want to mess with her, okay, he’s really a big teddy bear but don’t tell anyone or you’ll blow his cover! Natalie is the author of WATER FOR AFRICA (Dynamo Publishers, November 2017), WHERE ARE SHAYLA’S SOCKS? (Porch Time Publishing, 2018), and NATASHA ROSE MYSTERIES (Dynamo Publishers, 2018. Visit her online at or on Twitter @NatalieMcNee.   


  1. Happiness vs. joy ... an interesting concept or question. And I like the reminder that God has a sense of humour. Great review!

    As an aside, I often find formatting issues with NetGalley books. I think it's because while I'm reading it on a Kindle, it's not a true Kindle (mobi) file, but a pdf that's gone through a rough conversion. It can make the reading difficult at times!

    1. Yes, I have found the same issue with NetGalley books, Iola.

  2. Yay for happiness! What a lovely lady. I think that's why the Pharisees were incensed at Jesus. They valued long faces as spiritual one-upmanship on the ignorant masses.
    I always looked on joy as being the deep down emotion while happiness spills over to those around us. And we sure need them today!

  3. Hi Natalie, thank you for sharing Lisa's new one with us all. I hear a lot of great things about Lisa and her ministry so it's no surprise her book is a good one.

  4. It's the first time I used NetGalley so I will keep that in mind for future reviews.

    Hi Ian, it's the first time I had heard of Lisa but I enjoyed her book greatly so I will be reading her other ones soon.

  5. Also if you have the kindle you can get a sample of the book at amazon to see if the formatting is ok as often in ARC's there is an issue. Barbour ARC's always have formatting issues but not so the end product.

    Don't you hate when the ending ends abruptly. The last novella I read did the same I reread it several times to see if I had missed something but no, I think it assumes I know the answer.


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