Patience in Suffering
Near the end of her Revelations, in a confessional moment, Julian of Norwich admits that before her visions began, she had often had a great longing to be delivered from this life of suffering and woe. “And this made me mourn and earnestly long, and also because of my own wretchedness, sloth and weariness, I did not like to live and to travail as it was my duty to do.” In other words, Julian frequently felt weary of life and worn out by her daily struggles. She may also have suffered from bouts of melancholy and even depression that made her unwilling to work and pray as she knew she ought to do. But the Lord answered her:
Suddenly thou shalt be taken from all thy pain, from all thy disease, from all thy distress, and from all thy woe. And thou shalt come up above, and thou shalt have me for thy reward, and thou shalt be filled with joy and bliss. And thou shalt never more have any manner of pain, nor any manner of sickness, nor any manner of displeasure, nor wanting of will, but ever joy and bliss without end. Why should it then aggrieve thee to suffer [be patient] awhile, since it is my will and for my honor?
By Christ’s answer, Julian was not only comforted; she was taught the inestimable value of the virtue of patience in waiting for God to release us from our present suffering. She realizes that if we knew the moment of our death, we would not need to exercise any patience. But since we do not know “the day nor the hour” (Mt 25:13), it is greatly profitable to the soul to live as if it were “ever at the point of being taken. For all this life and suffering that we have here is but a point, and when we are taken suddenly out of pain into bliss, then pain shall be nought [nothing].”
Julian strongly encourages us to “overpass” our present sufferings and emotional upheavals, and contemplate instead the eternal joys that are being prepared for us in heaven. She is certain that:
It is God’s will that we understand his behestes [urgent promptings] and his comforting as comprehensively and as mightily as we may take them. And also he wills that we take our abidings [delays and frustrations] and our distresses as lightly as we may take them, and set them at nought. For the more lightly that we take them, and the less price that we set on them for love, the less pain shall we have in the feeling of them, and the more thanks and reward shall we have for them. . . .
And thus I understood that any man or woman who willingly chooses God in this lifetime for love, he may be seker [secure] that he is loved without end, with endless love that works in him that grace [of choosing God]. For God wills we recollect this trustfully, that we are as seker in hope of the bliss of heaven while we are here as we shall be in sekernesse when we are there. And ever the more pleasure and joy that we take in this sekernesse, with reverence and humility, the more it delights him.
Julian perceived that Christ wanted her to be bound to him in love “as if he had done everything that he has done solely for me. And thus should every soul think in relation to his lover.” Indeed, she insists that all the Revelations were shown to make us all love our Lord and take the greatest delight in him, and fear nothing but displeasing him. If we do, no temptation or evil or suffering can possibly overwhelm us. “For it is his will that we know that all the might of our enemy is locked in our friend’s hand.”
PLEASE NOTE: Translations from the Middle English and excerpts above are from my book, An Explorer’s Guide to Julian of Norwich (IVP Academic Press) © Copyright by Veronica Mary Rolf. Available from the Publisher and Amazon worldwide: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0830850880?
All text copyrighted © 2013-2018 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. No copying or reprints allowed without the express permission of the Author.