Julian's Suffering World
Also, let us take a moment to reflect on the life of Julian of Norwich. She lived in the tumultuous fourteenth century. The Hundred Years’ War between England and France informed her entire life. When she was just six years old the first wave of the Great Pestilence (later known as the Black Death) swept through all of Europe (and Norwich), decimating the population. Over half the people in Norwich died within a few months. Julian must have lost dozens of family members and friends. And the plague continued to return at regular intervals throughout her life. Meanwhile, the Great Papal Schism between two popes (one in Rome, one in Avignon) produced wars that killed some 20,000 people. In addition, there was the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 that cut a swathe of fear, destruction, and death throughout England. And there were religious heresies. And condemnations for heresy. And diseases that killed all the livestock. And severe famines that killed countless people. The list of horrors goes on and on.
No wonder Julian had so many burning questions about the nature of sin, suffering, and salvation! There was nothing in her life to make her feel secure, safe, and protected. It was only during her revelations that she became absolutely certain of the one security she could count on: the unconditional love of God. During long years spent in prayer and contemplation as an anchorite, Julian begged Christ for clarity and understanding. She ached to know how human blindness, ignorance, anger, and sin could be transformed. And she heard the voice of the Lord reassuring her that no matter the challenges and difficulties, “all shall be well” and she would not be overcome. But Christ never said it would be easy!
He did not say, “Thou shalt not be tormented, thou shalt not be wearied, thou shalt not be distressed,” but he said, “Thou shalt not be overcome.” God wills that we take heed of this word, and that we be ever mighty in secure trust, in well-being and woe. For he loves us and delights in us, and so he wills that we love him and like him and mightily trust in him, and all shall be well.
A Prayer for Peace
Perhaps it would be beneficial for us all to remember Julian’s words to us on this Thanksgiving Day. Let us give thanks for the blessing of freedom and pray that freedom might bless everyone. Let us have compassion for whatever “other” people are suffering, whether we agree with them or not. Let us not project our personal anger onto them, vilifying them in the process. Let us look deeply into our own hearts, examine the deep causes of our fury and frustration, and strive to let go of that anger in silence and stillness. Let us recognize that we all long for safety, for security, for healing, for happiness, for the love of God to permeate our lives. We all want to live in peace. And let us be confident that if we are willing to listen, really listen, to each other, and to work together, we as a nation will not be overcome. May we find peace in our own hearts this Thanksgiving, and may that spirit of peace go forth from us to heal our nation and our world. Then we shall begin to see how “all shall be well.”