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The Good Life Author Q&A

Andy Whisenant | Mar 27th
Tell us about The Good Life. What prompted you to write it?

The Good Life: What Jesus Teaches About Happiness is about experiencing a happiness that goes beyond the surface of your circumstances to the depths of your soul. I journey with the reader in helping them discover a happiness that is rooted in something deeper and better than what happens to you. The reader will gain a greater understanding of their purpose by growing in a greater understanding of what true happiness is. 

I explore what is commonly known as the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-13). In the Beatitudes, Jesus repeats over and over that you will be blessed. In the New Testament, the Greek word for “blessed” is makários; it means to be in a state of happiness. To be blessed is to flourish as a human.

I wrote The Good Life because my heart was breaking for people who were unhappy. I saw how their unhappiness negatively affected their loved ones. Some of these people were successful and famous, some of them were unsuccessful, some of them were followers of Jesus, and some of them were not. They all wanted to be happy, but no matter how hard they tried, happiness eluded them, and it made them more unhappy. 

Who did you write it for?

The Good Life is for women and men who want to be happy, but no matter how hard they have tried, they can’t find happiness. I’m also writing to millennials and Gen Z. According to research, these generations are unhappy. I want to help them experience God’s kind of happiness. 

In 2008, four thousand books were written on the topic of happiness. This is up from just 50 in 2001. “According to some measures, as a nation we’ve grown sadder and more anxious during the same years that the happiness movement has flourished,” wrote Carlin Flora of “Psychology Today.” 

To highlight the unhappiness in our culture, Yale University now offers a class on the subject that has become the most popular class in the prestigious school’s history. Almost 25% of Yale’s undergrads take the course, “Psyc 157, Psychology and the Good Life.” Dr. Laurie Santos, who teaches the course, writes, “Students want to change, to be happier themselves, and to change the culture here on campus.” A Yale undergrad who took the course said, “In reality, a lot of us are anxious, stressed, unhappy, numb.” Even Bristol University in England is offering a 12-week course on “How to Achieve Happiness.” The course explores topics from “psychology, neuroscience, and will explore ways to achieve true happiness, how to live fulfilling lives.”  

The Good Life will also give people insight into the person of Jesus and how he was able to be happy despite the difficult circumstances he experienced.

How is this different from other books (and Christian books) about happiness?

First, The Good Life is different because I wrote it. God uses our story to collide into his story. Despite fame, success, money, and marrying a beautiful woman, I wasn’t happy. It wasn’t until Jesus invited me into his kingdom that I realized happiness was more about becoming the person that God intended me to become than my happy circumstances, money or fame. 

Second, The Good Life is different because Jesus literally tells us in the Beatitudes how we can be happy (Matthew 5:3-12)! A blessed or happy person is someone who allows God to form in them the sacred habits of God’s kingdom. Not only do we become happier, which is more internally realized than externally motivated, but we also become people who love others deeply and make a positive difference in the world. Our happiness and holiness are two sides of the same coin.

What is the difference between the happiness we strive for and what we were created for?

Like everyone else, I thought things like money, sex, fame, status and success would make me happy, but the reality was this: Created things can’t satisfy us or give us the good life we desperately want. Only the uncreated Creator can satisfy us with himself. Through the Beatitudes, Jesus invites us to experience his-kind-of-happiness as citizens of his kingdom.

What do you mean by saying “happiness and holiness are two sides of the same coin”?

I created the term, “happiness and holiness are two sides of the same coin,” because a happy person is someone who is being transformed into the holy image of Jesus. The Beatitudes reflect how Jesus lived. He lived the good life and now he wants to supernaturally share his good life with us. As we embrace the Beatitudes, we become happier as we become more like Jesus. A happy person is a holy person.

What are some ways that believers have misunderstood the Beatitudes, and how does your book address those?

I don’t think most followers of Jesus read the Beatitudes. I hope The Good Life makes the Beatitudes great again! The happiness we were created for is hiding in plain sight (Matthew 5:3-12). 

In “The Good Life,” it’s like the reader and I are chatting over a cup of coffee, exploring and discovering the happiness we were created to experience. God’s kind of happiness is our birthright as his children.

What do you hope readers glean from The Good Life?

I want the reader to discover that in the Beatitudes, Jesus takes a blank canvas and begins to paint a portrait that is so moving that by gazing at it, we are somehow transported into a different world—a better, more beautiful, life-giving world. The Good Life is possible because Jesus made it possible. This will help us experience what we were created for. The Beatitudes are a description of how God’s kingdom enters man’s realm and transforms it. The Beatitudes are a picture of how God’s people, under his rule and reign of grace, live on earth.

Ultimately, I pray that the reader will see that happiness is not primarily about good things happening to you, but about making you good through Jesus. Happiness is internal.

What can people do daily to experience this good life?

I wrote The Good Life in a practical, conversational way so the reader can consume it and take steps in discovering how to live out the Beatitudes. Reading the book in community will enhance the experience.