cover image Holy Unhappiness: God, Goodness, and the Myth of the Blessed Life

Holy Unhappiness: God, Goodness, and the Myth of the Blessed Life

Amanda Held Opelt. Worthy, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-1-546-00192-8

In this eye-opening offering, Opelt (A Hole in the World) examines notions of a “blessed” life that frame happiness as the product of a strong faith. The author recalls the shame she long felt because—despite living a “life [that] in many ways, is a picture of blessedness” (healthy kids, supportive husband)—she was plagued by a “slow drip of disappointment... an ever-present anti-climax.” She traces the shame back to what she terms the “Emotional Prosperity Gospel,” or the belief that if one “make[s] good choices... peace will be the norm and pain an aberration.” But “life is hard no matter how many good choices you make,” according to Opelt, who examines how the notion of blessedness plays out in different aspects of life, including work (“find a job you love, and you’ll be happy,” it insinuates, but frustrating or difficult labor is part of life and can even be godly) and parenting (discussing her experiences with infertility, she writes, “the idea that my womb was... averse to my God-given purpose as a woman was crushing”). For Opelt, “developing a tolerance for hard feelings,” instead of seeking unequivocal happiness, allowed her peace. Weaving in biblical passages and intimate personal anecdotes, Opelt delivers both a sharp critique of the emotional prosperity gospel and a soulful, autobiographical search for meaning. This provides much food for thought. (Aug.)