“All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” Julian of Norwich, a Roman Catholic woman, whose book is thought to be the oldest surviving book written by a woman in English. She wrote during a period of great suffering and uncertainty. The 100 Years War between England and France began before she was born and continued long after she died. Horrific famine was widespread throughout England. Rounding out the tragedy of war and starvation, as if those are not terrible enough, was a pandemic. In her lifetime, she saw the devastation of much of Europe’s population by the bubonic plague. Three outbreaks occurred in her city. She herself nearly died from the plague. The heartache must have been overwhelming. Suffering was everywhere. Many in her day attributed this horror to the wrath of God. Imagine the surprise, then, that her thoughts are not of despair or judgment, but of love and hope. She wrote of a tremendous desire to be joyful in all circumstances, however unpleasant, for no other reason than a deep abiding faith that all things are ultimately put right by Christ.
Centuries later, we are still asking ourselves, “Will all really be well?” As our generation lives through our own pandemic, our own wars, and our own heartaches, I am both comforted and disturbed. I am grateful to have a happy home, a precious family, a stable income, a natural contentment to be at home, and a steady sense of hope. In my community, I see acts of bravery, generosity and love regularly. Despite these lovely life blessings, I feel grave concern, grief, and helplessness. They have become my daily much too heavy clothing. Living through current events during this virus that takes our breath away, I find it hard to catch my own breath. No, in general, things do not feel well.
So, when Julian says, “all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well” it is not the Hallmark card statement of someone putting on rose-colored glasses or sticking their head in the sand pretending all this bad stuff will go away, but the voice of one who has experienced suffering and tried to make sense of it. The way she does so is through faith. “All will be well” is a statement of faith. I cannot pull out a signed contract from God guaranteeing that I and all those I love will be safe from major trauma or that I will triumphantly overcome all obstacles in my life. It is about something deeper and more inarticulate. It is an attitude that approaches this big, scary life with openness and hope rather than with fear and dread. It is a not a descriptive statement of now, but a hopeful statement of what shall be. A deep-rooted knowing that God keeps us. All will be well. I feel it. I feel that all will be well. May you feel it too.
Previously published in the Hampton County Guardian and Bluffton Today