July’s book pick for the “Faith, Coffee, And Books” was the very short and quick read, “Everything Happens For A Reason” by Kate Bowler.
Admittedly, I was prepared for a very different kind of book when I sat down to read this. I thought the book would be centred more on an apologetics angle to argue against the philosophy of the Prosperity Gospel movement and the meaningless cliches (such as the one sitting in the very title of the book) that often do more harm than they bring comfort.
This was a very different kind of book.
Bowler isn’t interested in arguments. She’s interested in real life. She’s interested in the day-to-day and how these worldviews often work in real time.
Bowler, someone who has spent time as a member of the Prosperity Gospel movement, discusses two major events in her life during which her faith in the movement was put to the test. The first time was when a strange numbness over-took her arms, making them useless. She saw doctor after doctor and no one was able to give her answers. Finally, she saw a physical therapist who was able to help her not only understand what was happening in her body, but to help her find relief.
The second time was when, after months of severe stomach pain, Bowler was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. The rest of the book is about her and her family coming to terms with the diagnosis while preparing for her death, at the same time believing in the possibility of a miracle.
Bowler writes in a style that strongly reminds me of Anne Lamott. It reads like a conversation, and feels like you are sitting down for tea with a friend who just wants you to understand her perspective as a woman for whom the cliches of Prosperity don’t work for her in the same way anymore. There’s no condemnation in her voice. There is weariness. She cannot be comforted by easy answers. She merely wants to be seen and sat with in her grief.
I think those who have experienced great suffering might find comfort in Bowler’s words. It would feel like two friends commiserating.
I think those who want to understand the suffering of their loved ones who are walking through extraordinary grief and anxiety, as Bowler and her family did, might find better words to speak in a hard situation. Perhaps it will give them permission to not know what to say or do and just sit in that awkward tension of wanting to speak the words to make it all okay again and knowing that there is nothing that can be said to make it better. Sometimes silence and tears shared between loved ones is comfort enough.