During Lent we are reading Kate Bowler’s Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved. Each Sunday we will post a reflection based on the book. You can receive the Sunday reflections via email by signing up here (be sure to check the #FeastingOnLent2018 box). We also invite you to participate in our daily photo challenge, based on themes from the book.
Readings for the First Sunday of Lent
Mark 1:9-15 and Everything Happens for a Reason (preface and chapter 1)
In today’s Gospel reading on this first Sunday during the season of Lent, Luke speaks of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. For forty days, Jesus was tempted by the devil. “Here, try this.” “Hey, Jesus, look at this.” “You’re God’s Son, do this.” The devil tempted Jesus to prove his identity and to perform miracles over and over again for forty days in the solitude of the wilderness.
The opening pages of Kate Bowler’s Everything Happens for a Reason, speak to Bowler’s early days in the wilderness of her cancer diagnosis. With one phone call, life as she knew it was forever changed. This chapter primarily focuses on the day Bowler received the diagnosis and was rushed into surgery. It was a day blurred with sharing the news with close friends and family, worried realizations about the potential consequences of the diagnosis, and reflections on moments in life before that day.
Her reflections of that day are in conversation with her learnings on the prosperity gospel, the primary focus of her academic research. The prosperity gospel is full of temptation—particularly when one finds themselves in a wilderness. Temptations of certainty that “God will give you your hearts desires” (xi). Temptations of escape from challenges of health, poverty, and relationships (xiii). Temptations of easy answers: “Everything happens for a reason,” “God is writing a better story,” and “God is closing doors and opening windows” (xv). The temptation to lean into the promises of a better alternative to the wilderness Bowler is entering is there. Yet on that particular day, Bowler resists the temptation and keeps on living through that day. She and her husband hold one another in a tender embrace. Her friends sit on her hospital bed, crying and laughing together. A friend helps her change into the crisp, blue hospital gown.
Jesus resisted the devil’s temptations, holding on to what he knew to be true, before returning to Galilee and living out his truth. In this Lenten season, how might we live, despite the temptations before us? In the midst of our wilderness experiences, what helps us to resist the temptations (those temptations that seem to grow stronger in the wild)?
During this season of Lent, may you draw nearer to the Living God, and to the truth that the God who created you, Christ who redeems you, and the Spirit who sustains you journey with you through the wilderness.
Readings for next week:
Everything Happens for a Reason (chapter 2)