Julian of Norwich was an anchoress (a person who has dedicated her life to God) and mystic who lived in the 14th century. When she was thirty, she became ill and thought she would die. During her illness, she received sixteen revelations or “showings” and later would write about these in her Showings.
All Will Be Well
She had long struggled with the question of why we could not avoid sin and the suffering it caused. She received an answer in her thirteenth “shewing”1:
In my folly, before this time I often wondered why, by the great foreseeing wisdom of God, the onset of sin was not prevented: for then, I thought, all should have been well. This impulse [of thought] was much to be avoided, but nevertheless I mourned and sorrowed because of it, without reason and discretion.
“But Jesus, who in this vision informed me of all that is needed by me, answered with these words and said: ‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’
She understood this to mean that her struggle with sin and the effects of sin in life were unavoidable, but that one day, Jesus would put all things right.
We can find the same message in the Epistle to the Romans:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God.
Romans 8:18-19 (NABRE)
Going A Step Further
Knowing God’s promise and our destiny as children of God, it gives us good reason to endure the trials of this life. Still, one would try to avoid suffering and persecution, but if encountered, could take heart that it will one day end, and all will be well. But in his letter to the Philippians, Paul brings us one step further:
Only, conduct yourself in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear news of you, that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind struggling together for the faith of the gospel, not intimidated in any way by your opponents. This is proof to them of destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For to you has been granted, for the sake of Christ, not only to believe in him but also to suffer for him. Yours is the same struggle as you saw in me and now hear about me. [italics added]
Phil. 1:27-30 NABRE
The Greek word used for “granted” means “to be given a favor.” Paul told the Philippians, and us, too, to consider the opportunity to suffer for Christ as a favor or blessing. How can this be?
Parenting has lots of wonderful moments, like when our kids cuddle with us and we laugh and play together. But there are times, like getting up in the night with a crying baby or sick child or holding firm to limits with an angry teenager, when the fun disappears. Or, consider a man or a woman caring for a dying spouse. In each situation, that person demonstrates the beauty and heroic response of love proved through the intentional sacrifice made for the one they love. So it is with our love for God. Moreover, when done in love, the sacrificial act works to transform us into the image of Christ.
Be at Peace
How much have I struggled with and complained about the troubles of life and persecution I faced because of my love of God! The pain of some situations was undeniable, but much of the suffering I brought upon myself. I failed to consider that to me it had granted, in my encounter with sin, an opportunity to show heroic love.
Not only will the struggles and trials of this life one day come to an end and be replaced by indescribable glory, but at the very moment of their visitation, we can also know God’s peace and joy.
1 Dan Graves, “Article #31: All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well,” Christian History Institute, Accessed November 13, 2017, https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/incontext/article/julian.