Book Review – Everything Happens for a Reason

Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved

By Dr. Kate Bowler
160 pages, SPCK Publishing
ISBN 9780281079292

Goodreads rating: 3.50 out of 5

In our society today, cancer has become dirty word. With it comes the connotations of bleak, almost fatalistic suffering. But sadly, it is becoming all too common, even within the confines of PJEFC. Cancer kills, not only does it kills cells, it kills lives, family bonds, it kills happiness. And what is the Christian response? Because the illness is so common, there is certainly no shortages of books and articles about how Christian survivors and families deal with the crisis and the aftermath. Many talk about finding a deeper understanding and strength in God, others share about a stronger bond with family members in dealing with the suffering.

But these, to some, are cold comfort to be derived in spite of the suffering. Given a choice, no one person would choose to have cancer just to reap the lean benefits. This applies to any physical suffering for that matter, not just cancer.

So then, what is there left to say? Should Christians avoid the question of theodicy – why does a just and loving God allow pain and suffering – altogether? And what about those of us who come from churches that believe in the prosperity gospel? You know, the name-it-claim-it offshoot of evangelicals.

Dr Kate Bowler comes from such a church. That is, in addition, to the Mennonite church childhood. At age 35 she discovers she has stage IV cancer, after just having a God-gifted first child. What follows is an exploration (and in many cases, destruction) of her many long-held beliefs about God and faith. Dr Bowler approaches the suffering with as much good-humour and candour as she can muster, though it is obviously much easier in hindsight.

While her story and observations alone are inspiring, what is most helpful about this book is the epilogue where she candidly shares what you should and should NOT say to anyone going through cancer.

So does this book answer the important questions that beg answers. Of course not. No one in this lifetime can answer them. Cancer and suffering will continue to exist alongside us and God. But this book gives a personal first-hand account of this journey that will undoubtedly be some comfort for those treading the same path.


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