Hanging onto Hope
In the Thirteenth Revelation, Julian contemplated not only how “alle shalle be wele” but also, why there is so much evil in the world. She wrote:
There are many evil deeds done in our sight and such great harms suffered that it seems to us that it were unpossible [impossible] that ever it should come to a good end.
Julian simply could not see how the problem of evil could be “made wele”:
And upon this [evil] we look, sorrowing and mourning therefore, so that we can not rest ourselves in the blissful beholding of God as we should do. And the cause is this: that the use of our reason is now so blind, so low, and so simple, that we can not know the high, the marvelous wisdom, the might, and the goodness of the blissful trinity.
The Effects of Evil Deeds
Julian could not forget the brutalities that had torn apart the very fabric of her life. She had not been a cloistered nun or a distant observer of the sufferings of her age. She had seen peasants bound by ropes and dragged through the streets, hanging from the back of horse-drawn carts. She had watched severed heads be raised atop pikes on the walls of Norwich. She had witnessed the hands of thieves cut off as punishment. She knew about the evils perpetrated by immoral clergy and nobility alike. She had heard the stories of rape, murder, and pillage from the war. She had held her disconsolate evencristens, crying aloud in her arms. She had spent years “sorrowing and mourning” and been unable to rest “in the blissful beholding of God.”
More than once, she must have asked the question that has no human answer: how could such evil deeds ever come to a good end? Julian was painfully aware that the presence of evil impacts all who look on it, listen to it, smell it, touch it. The effects of evil deeds wreak havoc in our emotional lives and test our faith in the goodness of God. The seeming triumph of evil that, for a time at least, goes unpunished, raises severe questions about God’s lack of intervention.
The terrible sufferings produced by evil wear down our hope in ever being set free from its clutches. Evil disillusions and embitters our hearts, making us unable to love or trust God as we should. Evil arouses annoyance, fuels anger, feeds the desire for revenge. And in all this, we become unable to pray, to praise, and to give glory to God as we ought to do. We cannot rest in contemplating the pure goodness of God. We are worn out with weeping.
Julian is admitting here that she knows this debilitating process only too well. She has looked on evil and been shaken to the core by her contact with it. Yet she refuses to blame God for evil. She insists that the cause of our despair over the all-pervasiveness of evil is that our reasoning minds are “so blind, so low, and so simple.” What she means is that we simply cannot comprehend the transcendence of the Trinity in its glorious wisdom, might, and goodness. We may find it easier to believe that God may not, can not, will not, and shall not save all humankind, and that we shall never see him make “alle manner of thing wele.” This is due to our inability to comprehend who God is and what God is capable of accomplishing. It is also symptomatic of our lack of faith. It takes a long time for us to allow God’s promise to filter through our fears and find a home deep in our injured psyches.
And thus, this is what he means where he says: “Thou shalt see thyself that alle manner of thing shalle be wele,” as if he had said: “Take heed now, faithfully and trustingly, and at the last end thou shalt see truly in fullness of joy.”
Julian insists we must take sharp notice of what Christ is saying. We must have faith and trust in his promises, most especially because we cannot see how this or that particular evil could ever “come to a good end.” We must hang on Christ’s words, counting on him to make all things well at the end of time, even though we have no idea how he will ever do it. We must believe that he can and wants to do it. Such belief does not arise easily. It is an acquired habit. It takes continual and determined practice. But if we do practice such belief, then “at the last end,” we will be able to “see truly in the fullness of joy” how Christ has done it.
In these cruel times of persecution for so many millions of God’s beloved children, let us encourage one another to hang onto hope that Christ IS at work, caring and comforting, healing and reassuring, even though we know not how. Eventually, Justice will be done. Mercy will abound. As Mary sang in her Magnfcat: God will "bring down rulers from their thrones and lift up the humble." God "will fill the hungry with good things and send the rich away empty." And in our own times of trial, let us trust "mightily" that, as Julian understood, “Thou shalt see thyself that alle manner of thing shalle be wele.”
PLEASE NOTE: Excerpts above are from Julian's Gospel: Illuminating the Life & Revelations of Julian of Norwich (Orbis Books), Copyright © 2013 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. This article may not be copied or reprinted without the express permission of the author.
All text copyrighted © 2013-2018 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. No copying or reprints allowed without the express permission of the Author.