When Kate Bowler was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer, it tore at the seams of the prosperity-gospel theology she had surrounded herself with. Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved tells her story, "offering up irreverent, hard-won observations on dying and the ways it has taught her to live", and it's what I affectionately call a "bleeding heart". Every chapter, every page, every word is chalk-full of so much full, sorrowful, beautiful emotion that I felt like crying every time I sat down with it, just as a way to release the feelings building and twisting inside of me as I read.
There is no end to Kate Bowler's wisdom, truth, and sheer, raw honesty that I didn't even know I was longing for. Just last week, I came across a cute, catchy Christian saying that echoed the promises we so often tell each other: "With God, you're limitless. Anything is possible. Nothing can stop you from achieving your dreams, your goals...". And then in reading Kate Bowler's story, I read this:
"What would it mean for Christians to give up that little piece of the American Dream that says, "You are limitless"? Everything is not possible. The mighty Kingdom of God is not yet here. What if rich did not have to mean wealthy, and whole did not have to mean healed? What if being people of "the gospel" meant that we are simply people with good news? God is here. We are loved. It is enough."With God, you're limitless, except when something does stop you. Except when you reach your very real, very tangible limits, and things don't go your way anymore.
(p. 21. Bowler, Kate. Everything Happens for a Reason. Penguin Random House, 2018.)
Like Kate, since pondering this disillusionment with the concept of limitlessness, I've become more comfortable with the times when life is no longer under my control (as if it ever really is). Human mortality stares us in the face every day, but in the shoes of someone like Kate, it no longer seems to just stare. It screams. It shrieks. It rages. It becomes a thing so impossible to ignore that the only thing left is to ask the questions: the hard questions, the real questions, the painful questions, the terrifying questions. I've never heard ask them better than Kate does. Her cynicism reads like a breath of fresh air after a long day cooped up in a stuffy house; the hope and grace woven through her words feels like a full, warm embrace.
This book is a balm for the suffering, wondering why they suffer. And it's so incredibly helpful for those seeking, searching, trying to understand the threat of cancer in their family members and friends. There are two helpful appendices at the end: "Absolutely Never Say This to People Experiencing Terrible Times (A Short List)" and "Give This A Go, See How It Works (A Short List)". They're meant to guide and help those of us who don't know what to do or say, and are in danger of harming our already hurting loved one with our good intentions.
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