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Kate Short encourages us to read 'Happiness' by J. C. Ryle and join the book discussion at 7:45pm on Thursday 9th April...

We’re facing uncertain times, where anxiety and loss (of loved ones, financial stability and freedoms) are looming ever closer with every daily government briefing we tune into. But this time of uncertainty is also a time of opportunity. Perhaps working from home, no daily commute or just the absence of regular hobbies and commitments has given you more time to slow down and think.

Hopefully, you have received a copy of ‘Happiness’ by J C Ryle through your letterbox over the past week. As a church, we are going to read it together and then, on Thursday 9th April, discuss what we thought as part of a ‘virtual book discussion’.

In case you need persuading, Ryle’s book is short, concise and easy to follow. The language has been updated since it was first written and it shouldn’t take you more than an hour or so to read in one sitting. More importantly, this book couldn’t be more relevant to our current global situation.

We’re living in a time and country where the world is our oyster and yet we have higher rates of depression and family breakdown than ever before. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of people are facing losing their jobs or business or missing out on milestones like finishing their A-levels or GCSEs and saying goodbye to friends. Lockdown means we are all separated from our friends and extended family, and for those on their own, the next few months are perhaps filled with a huge sense of loneliness and isolation. These circumstances will leave many of us feeling distinctly ‘unhappy’.

But Ryle provides a medicine for this. He doesn’t belittle the very real, difficult circumstances we may be living in. Instead, he exposes the myths we believe and the temptations that lure us to find happiness where it can’t be found, and he points us to the truths we all need to hear about how we can truly be happy.

This is a very weird time for all of us, and you might be missing ‘normal church community’. But this is also a great opportunity for us to grow as a church and to make the most of this time that God has given us.

The book discussion will be very informal and relaxed; a sharing of thoughts rather than a formal bible-study structure. The focus will primarily be application: ‘how does the content of the book apply to us specifically’. With that in mind, have a think about these questions as you’re reading:

  1. What do you feel you are ‘lacking’ in life that means you’re not quite as happy as you could be?

  2. What things are you anxious about for the future which might be robbing you of happiness now? What do these fears and anxieties show about where you may have put your hope?

  3. Are there any areas in your life where your priorities might be in the wrong order?

  4. What difficulties are you experiencing (or have you experienced) that have made it difficult to be happy? What truth does Jesus offer that provides happiness in spite of these difficulties?

  5. Which of the truths about being a ‘true christian’ do you think you need to hear and apply to your heart most?

  6. Do you have any objections to what J C Ryle says after reading the book?

I find it helpful to write in books as I am reading; things I liked and things I was confused by. Feel free to do that as this is a gift from Village Church to you. However, I know some people will see that as sacrilege so if you’d prefer, it might be helpful to write some notes down on your phone just to help you remember what you’ve read as we’re discussing.

I really hope you can join us for our ‘virtual book club’, and I’m looking forward to hearing what you think about what J C Ryle has to say.


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