Samuel Wells on happiness

Sam[uel Wells] was intrigued to hear that there was to be a prayer vigil on a street on the other side of town [Durham, NC] to commemorate the life of a young man who had been murdered on that same spot a few weeks before. This sounded like just the kind of place where Sam might expect Christ to show up, so he decided to go along. At the vigil he discovered a dozen people who had gathered in the sweltering heat of an August evening to say prayers, hold mementos, listen to relatives of the victim, keep silence and show tenderness and grace to one another.

Sam felt this was one of the most beautiful things he’d ever seen. It expressed almost everything he believed about ministry and almost everything he believed about God. He had never felt that ministry – or God – was about making things happy. He’d long felt that the heart of ministry – and the heart of God – is about making things beautiful, even when they can’t be happy. But in fifteen years of ministry, he’d never seen anything that embodied that conviction as well as this. [15-16]

One of Sam’s mottos is, “If it can’t be happy, make it beautiful.” His point is that there is more to life than being happy, and some of the truths discovered and friendships made and wisdom found in times of distress can be more sustaining and significant than the perpetual quest for happiness. In that sense happiness is the desire to float – perhaps even float away – while beauty is the perception of and desire for something deeper, the urge to dig, to look inside, to stay in the reality until God is disclosed. [94]

from Samuel Wells and Marcia Owen, ‪Living Without Enemies: Being Present in the Midst of Violence, (InterVarsity, 2011).

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