Author and professor Kate Bowler has spent many years studying the predominantly American phenomenon of the “prosperity gospel.” With several research papers and a series of books, Bowler has become something of an expert on this warped theology that preaches “health and wealth” if you would only have enough faith.
Bowler recently received the shocking diagnosis of advanced cancer.
She’s the first to admit, as she says in the video below, that the irony was not lost on her. The first book she ever wrote was called “Blessed” and now she was stricken with a terminal disease. The prognosis was not good, even terminal. So Kate, who has been undergoing treatment to stave off the disease, has had to come to terms with many of the big questions of life sooner than she expected.
Was God really enough? Were all the things she’d written about really true? Well, she was about to find out.
Meet Kate. A divinity professor at Duke and a young mother with a Stage IV cancer diagnosis ask why bad things happen and tries to love life – and God – without certainty, in her new book EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON (And Other Lies I've Loved). Out February 6. PRE-ORDER HERE: http://bit.ly/ordereverythinghappens
Posted by Kate Bowler on Friday, January 26, 2018
“Many people write to me like family,” Kate explained in an article at Christianity Today. “They want to comfort me, but their experiences tell them that life is never fair. “I want you to know how much I’m praying for you and grateful for your faith. I’m sorry that we must say, like Job, ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.’””
Kate continued: “Yes, yes, yes. Yet will I trust in him. I don’t know what the word “trust” means anymore, except there are moments when I realize that it feels a lot like love.”
Bowler, who is an assistant professor in the school of divinity at Duke University, said that when her cancer diagnosis became public, many fellow believers contacted her to try and convince her that there was a God-ordained reason behind her suffering. Understandably, she found this hard to take.
“My inbox is full of strangers giving reasons. But most everyone I meet is dying to make me certain. They want me to know, without a doubt, that there is a hidden logic to this seeming chaos. Even when I was still in the hospital, a neighbor came to the door and told my husband that everything happens for a reason,” she explained.
This is such a difficult and dangerous element of the Christian faith.
Of course, we are people of faith and hope. But what about when something plainly awful unexpectedly confronts your reality. Are you meant to confidently declare that it has “happened for a reason” and move on? Surely we are more human than that? And surely God understands our struggle when searching for meaning in a cancer diagnosis at 30?
But despite her devastating situation, Kate has found that many of the prayers and written words of encouragement from those gritty, faith-filled people have been a huge source of support and strength as she fights her cancer battle.
“At a time when I should have felt abandoned by God, I was not reduced to ashes. I felt like I was floating, floating on the love and prayers of all those who hummed around me like worker bees, bringing notes and flowers and warm socks and quilts embroidered with words of encouragement,” she wrote at Christianity Today.
“They came in like priests and mirrored back to me the face of Jesus. When they sat beside me, my hand in their hands, my own suffering began to feel like it had revealed to me the suffering of others, a world of those who, like me, are stumbling in the debris of dreams they thought they were entitled to and plans they didn’t realize they had made.”
Bowler further explained that she had no real explanation for this experience of “floating” on the prayers and well-wishes of other believers. “It is not proof of anything,” she admitted. “It was simply a gift.”
When so much of the prosperity gospel’s answer to sickness is a prescriptive “5-step plan” to physical and financial well-being, Kate was somewhat content with her lack of comprehensive answers. Still, she seeks to develop a deep reliance on the Lord to sustain her in this, the fight of her life. Kate has come to know a God who is present with us in our times of utmost despair and devastation. “I suppose I am like the man who wrote to me to say he had seen a friend swinging from a tree and felt the presence of God in the same long, dark night,” she explained. “Yes. That is the God I believe in.”
“Joy persists somehow and I soak it in. The horror of cancer has made everything seem like it is painted in bright colors. I think the same thoughts again and again: Life is so beautiful. Life is so hard.”
Check out more about Kate’s book “Everything Happens for a Reason,” here.