Dec. 11 – Amanda Held Opelt – Holy Unhappiness [Advent Calendar]

The Englewood Review of Books
Best Books of 2023
Advent Calendar
December 11


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

Amanda Held Opelt

Hardback: Worthy Books, 2023
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In Holy Unhappiness: God, Goodness and the Myth of the Blessed Life, Amanda Held Opelt wrestles with promises that she thought were assured – a meaningful career, a fulfilling marriage, a reliable body to serve God, a sense of wellbeing and happiness. She writes, “While I did not believe that God was a vending machine for material abundance, I did expect God to make me happy, to bless me spiritually and experientially” (xvii). She assumed, “My seed money was my theological acumen, my good behavior and my good choices. And the return on the investment would be deep abiding joy” (xviii).

Opelt’s expected “return on the investment,” is what she has coined the “emotional prosperity gospel,” or more specifically, the promise of “fulfillment in work, meaning in ministry, intimacy with God and purpose in suffering” (xvii). Investigating this riff on the more generalized “prosperity gospel,” Opelt explores both the tangible disappointments–frustrating employment, difficulties in marriage, unexplainable depression–and the theological, cultural, scientific and historic reasons undergirding our expectations.


WATCH a conversation with Amanda Held Opelt about this book…


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