Podcast review: “Everything Happens.”

Does everything happen for a reason? Kate Bowler talks with people about what they've learned during difficult times.

Hosted by Kate Bowler

You’ve heard (and have probably said) this: everything happens for a reason. But do you really believe that? Is it a way for someone to edge out of an awkward conversation? Is it an ideal that we have in America, one that goes in step with the insistence of positivity and our ubiquitous smiles? Or is it a way to assign meaning to the hard, frightening places many of us live in or witness?

What if everything happens, that’s it, sometimes things suck for no good reason, and the best we can do is attempt to be insightful and faithful about life’s difficulties?

Kate Bowler is a firm believer in “Everything Happens,” the title of her popular podcast. She has lived the title. One of her books, Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved grew out of the inexplicable stage 4 colorectal cancer diagnosis she received at age 35, when she was a young mom. She had no history of cancer in her family. After spending her 20s researching the idea of the “prosperity gospel,” and talking with leaders of megachurches about ways they make spiritual meaning of their lives, the cancer diagnosis caused her thoughts about her research to change. She wrote Everything Happens as a document of the ways she tried to make sense of tragedy and the “American belief that all tragedies are tests of character.” (Spoiler: They are not.)

As a podcast, this opens rich, honest conversations that touch everything from racism to motherhood to death, with such guests as Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy, Mary Laura Philpott, who wrote I Miss You When I Blink, Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist, and my personal fan-girl favorite: funeral director Thomas Lynch.

She talks with guests who ask “why doesn’t God fix my pain?” (Stanley Hauerwas.) “How do you find grace for people who believe things very different than you?” (Jeff Chu.)  And “How do we count our blessings without imagining that God is teaching us a cosmic “lesson?” (Mitch Albom.)

And her talk with undertaker Thomas Lynch, who answers the question “What makes for “a good funeral?” He talks about walking
with his neighbors on the hardest days of their lives. And then, he reads one of his poems. (You can check out that episode here.)

All discussions are non-judgmental (and if they ARE judgmental, well, stuff happens; we’re human), and super honest. They don’t mince words or tip-toe around hard topics. And they invite the messiness of the world into what becomes a sometimes hilarious, sometimes gentle, always faithful conversation about the ways we approach the hardest, most inexplicable parts of our lives.