Not a Review: Re-reading Kate Bowler’s “Everything Happens for a Reason (and Other Lies I’ve Loved)”

Sometimes I write about personal stuff on here… about chats that I have with my mom. But I never write about having chats with my dad. Wish I could. There are things I wish I could ask my dad about the history of the area and our family within it. After all, he’s the one who convinced my mom to move out here and marry him, back in the 1970s. But I cannot ask him, because he passed away in 2005. Cancer.

I was 26 when my dad’s health suddenly tanked, it was the very worst thing I had ever experienced. I’ve never been hit by a literal truck, but I felt like I’d been hit by a truck anyway. Or maybe a runaway freight train. It came out of nowhere, with severe and tragic impact.

Sure enough, some folks did suggest to me that “everything happens for a reason”. Sometimes this pissed me off, and sometimes I was grateful for this offer of hope, the idea that perhaps some good could come of this. Perhaps at the very least, this extremely shitty experience would make me a better person. Perhaps at least I could then be a better support to others going through really shitty things, right?

WRONG.

I’ve learned over and over again, that I have NOT become a better person, nor a better support. I’m just as clueless now as I ever was; just as lost every time a friend goes through a difficult time. Plus, I’m not sure if it needs to be said, but here it is anyway: no two “difficult times” are the same. Each one is unique. That’s obvious, right?

And so, I was beyond pleased to see the title of Kate Bowler‘s book, Everything Happens for a Reason (and Other Lies I’ve Loved). Oh heck yes.

Here’s the deal, for those that don’t know: Kate Bowler is in her mid-30’s. She is a brilliant educator, wife, mother; and she’s living with stage four cancer.

Somehow even while calling out a lie, she does so with such eloquence and kindness. It’s devastating, beautiful, and hilarious. There are times that I just stared at one sentence, reading it over and over again, struck by how raw, primal, important her words were. Cut to the heart. And then relieved by her razor-sharp wit.

I’m not sure what I enjoyed more: reading about Kate’s love for her Mennonite friends and family, taking up swearing for Lent, or her friend who simply showed up with a bottle of wine.

In reading this book, I find that one moment I’ll be blinking back a flood of tears… the next, laughing in surprise at her wicked hilarious anecdotes. Somehow biting, yet tender, all at the same time.

In addition to lovingly indicting this prosperity gospel lie, she has also included a guide as to what not to do or say when someone you know has been similarly diagnosed.

I deeply appreciate Everything Happens for a Reason (And Other Lies I’ve Loved) because she provides insight into her own experience, and tenderly dismantles the toxic lie that says, “You are limitless. Everything is possible.”

Kate Bowler’s book contains moments of screaming into the windshield, quiet compassionate dismay, and wracking sobs.

She asks, “What if RICH did not have to mean WEALTHY, and WHOLE did not have to mean HEALED?”

And reflects that, “God is here. We are loved. It is enough.”

The title of this post is “not a review” — and it’s not. It’s more like just an interaction with this book, which I’ve been driven to read for a second time. And why I love it so much.

P.S. I highly recommend listening to Kate Bowler’s podcast, Everything Happens. It is such a gift.