I just finished the book Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler who is an assistant professor at Duke Divinity School. She was a firm believer in the “prosperity gospel” or the belief that God will ensure our health and financial well-being if we make enough donations and show great faith. Bowler, who tried for years with her husband to have a child and then had a miscarriage, finally gave birth to a healthy baby boy only to find out soon after that she had stage 4 colon cancer which she is still battling at the time of this writing. In her book, Bowler grapples with difficult questions. She doesn’t try to sugarcoat any of her experiences, her anger, or her pain. When I heard Kate Bowler’s interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, I knew I had to read her book.
Like Bowler, I too have been asking, “Why is this happening?”. A few months ago breast cancer necessitated a bilateral mastectomy for me which was a horrible ordeal, both physically and emotionally. My Dermatomyositis continues to cause me muscle aches, and my joints are inflamed. My husband still doesn’t have a paying job and hasn’t for over two years. The vet told us a week ago that the lump on our Sheltie’s nose is probably cancer, and, as of two and a half weeks ago, my mom is on hospice. Her blood oxygen level dips into the low 70’s when she takes off her oxygen (which she keeps taking off for some reason), leading to a great deal of fatigue and confusion.
But, believe it or not, I think that God is actually answering my “Why is this happening?” prayer. Yesterday, after asking this question of God yet again, I suddenly remembered that for a long time (up until my cancer diagnosis) I had been asking God each day to help me be the person he wanted me to become. Then today, on my way to church, I turned to 90.9 and heard a pastor on the radio say that we are to die to ourselves, and then in church, our pastor referenced Luke 9:23 in which Jesus said, ““If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”. When I looked what “dying to oneself” means, as I felt compelled to do, I found similar passages about sacrifice like Galatians 5:24 which reads, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” and Mark 8:25 states, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” The most hard-hitting passage is perhaps from Matthew 10:38: “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
I could make my life much easier by not tithing, giving to charity, supporting my husband, or spending almost all of my free time with my mom, but I would not be denying myself and taking up my cross. And while things seem rather bleak and stressful right now, I feel confident, that in all this, God is helping me become the person he wants me to become.
Bagley, Matt. “God Creates Tough Warriors.” Sailing Onward, 4 June 2017, http://www.sailingonward.com/God-creates-tough-warriors/.