I saw a recommendation for this book and couldn’t resist. It’s the story of a young wife, mom and college professor who stares down the barrel of a Stage IV cancer diagnosis. Doesn’t it sound like something you would immediately be drawn to? Although not a light and breezy summer beach read, I’m so thankful I found it. The author records beautifully the wonderful moments, painful experiences and seeming injustices of life as she fights for hers. Kate Bowler writes with honesty, wit and the bluntness I assume only one dying obtains as she questions doctors, God and well-intentioned friends and relatives.
While a student at Yale Divinity School, Bowler wrote her doctoral dissertation entitled Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel. THIS is what propels her current book from poignant memoir to fascinating study of human emotions and reasoning. The infamous prosperity gospel promises health, wealth and happiness to those who pray enough, have faith enough and sin little. Churches all over the country preach this message and Kate sat in many and interviewed preachers and parishioners of many others for her first book. But just a few years after, she can’t reconcile these teachings to herself and her young family as they battle her incurable illness. In her infirmary, she receives letters from all over the country written by people of varying theologies. Some preaching that she is somehow spiritually lacking because she is suffering. Others weathering storms of their own who’ve been further crushed under the weight of well-meaning folks insisting that gut-wrenchingly painful situations could simply disappear if he/she was somehow a better Christian.
Bowler’s title question begged me to respond, if for no other reason than the personal confirmation of my own faith. Does everything really happen for a reason? I can tell you that you won’t find that phrase in the Bible. On the surface, I think this belief can make us feel better. If you don’t spend too much time exploring it, this philosophy might help “make sense” of some seemingly senseless things. But some things really are beyond all reason. Cancer in children. Sex-trafficking of innocents. 9/11. There is no “reason” that makes sense of these unless that “reason” is simply that we live in a sinful and fallen world. So there is no comfort in it if the reason isn’t good.
So where is our comfort when the pain defies logic? Romans 8:28. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” NASB We may not always know why something happened, but the Bible tells us that God can, and will make good things happen from it. Through the lens of pain and our limited human vision, it may take a while to see the good, but good WILL come. It’s a promise.