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Stop + Read: 'Everything Happens for a Reason' by Kate Bowler

March 9, 2018

Yesterday I read about half of Everything Happens for a Reason And Other Lies I've Loved by Kate Bowler. The book was added to my queue after hearing Bowler’s interview on NPR a few weeks back. At age 35, the professor at Duke Divinity School and happily married mother of a toddler was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. And she's written a book about it that's now in week three of being on the NYT Bestseller List.

 

Both times I sat down to read resulted in buckets of intermittent tears. During an irresponsible-feeling half hour of letting my toddler watch "Daniel Tiger" I quietly read and cried into a paper towel. Then I threw down the book for a spontaneous dance party that she was shockingly acquiescent to after the tablet was snatched from her hands without warning. We bopped around to Whitney Houston's "Just Wanna" and I marveled at her. It was either that or hold her in a smothering hug until bedtime.

 

This book is nearly too much for my heart to bear. There are too many small parallels and too much resonance with life and faith as I've experienced it. I’m also mother to a small, sweet child who turned my world upside-down with her entrance. And I’m also continuing to grieve for my sister who had a stroke two years ago, when the life she planned and hoped for abruptly ended and the future is difficult to plan for. 

 

"Certainty is a drug, and we're all hooked." - Kate Bowler, Everything Happens for a Reason

 

Prior to her diagnosis, Bowler studied (and wrote a book about) the prosperity gospel in America. Initially I wasn't sure what to make of this fact or the inclusion of anecdotes and observations from her work with the prosperity gospel, given my own skepticism/cynicism/progressivism.

 

But the way she handles it all is beautiful and raw. What she learns is incredibly humbling. (Like I said, buckets of tears.)

 

I don't want to dive into the book too much as I've not finished it yet. But I already know it will be the book that I share, that is sent to the dear people in my life when they go through similar terrible times.

 

Her perspective and life experience is shaped by her faith, religious study and Christian upbringing, which is part of what resonates for me but could be distracting or off-putting for others. Bowler is an academic, not a preacher. It's a culture and ecosystem she is rooted in and an integral part of her journey.

 

The following two passages that stuck out to me are from the PREFACE. Not even into the main thing yet and it's already this good:

 

"It was certainty, plain and simple, that God had a worthy plan for my life in which every setback would also be a step forward... Anything would do if hardships were only detours on my long life's journey. I believed God would make a way. I don't believe that anymore."

 

"Why?

God, are you here?

What does this suffering mean?

At first those questions had enormous weight and urgency. I could hear Him. I could almost make out an answer. But then it was drowned out by what I've now heard a thousand times. "Everything happens for a reason" or "God is writing a better story." Apparently God is also busy going around closing doors and opening windows. He can't get enough of that."

 

If you are experiencing, or have experienced, what we call a “like it or not” life event, this book is for you. This is not a book “for people with cancer” just like Like It Or Not Apparel is not simply “t-shirts for stroke survivors.”

 

Bowler captures important and powerful truths that transcend the details of the terrible circumstance. It is heartfelt and irreverent and refreshing in a sea of well-intended platitudes. You may need tissues. They will be put to good use. Now excuse me while I go read. 

 

(If nothing else, the appendices at the end make the book worth your time, i.e. “ABSOLUTELY NEVER SAY THIS TO PEOPLE EXPERIENCING TERRIBLE TIMES: A SHORT LIST") 

 

*This is not a sponsored post. We just like sharing good things with you.

Learn more: https://katebowler.com/

 

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