I’ve written about this saying before, “All Will be Well”. It was coined by Julian of Norwich in the 14th century, a deep thinker and woman of prayer.
It is a phrase that surfaces with me often and I’ve been pondering it more closely as of late. It is not a blithe statement, or a pithy answer to pain. In fact I was asked again recently, in my role as a hospital chaplain, why a loving God does not provide some relief? It is a good question, a question that must be wrestled with and easy answers are not available.
My own life and experience teaches me, and I wrote about the robin earlier this year. A robin who perched on a branch outside the dentist’s office where I sat waiting for a diagnosis. We had just come back from Arizona in early February (that seems so long ago), and I had been struggling with tooth pain off and on while we were away. And the dreaded conclusion was announced, I needed a root canal. I have a sensitive mouth, and this was not good news.
And there the robin appeared, outside the window where I sat, and I remembered those words, which came to me at that moment: “All will be Well”. I rested in that thought and it seemed the robin looked right at me with reassurance. It was a peaceful moment which helped me to find some calm. I seem to be running into robins a lot these days, and I smile, thinking of this lovely reminder. Does God send these robins my way, to help me remember?
“All will be Well”, didn’t translate into an easy healing. My mouth hurt for weeks, Covid happened to all of us; and to make things even more interesting I found out my dentist had been at the large convention in Vancouver where a number of dentists were infected. I was grateful to hear he wasn’t one of them. But it felt like a close call, and as we all know, life didn’t feel particularly safe, then or now.
And I wondered, did I get the message wrong?
I remembered Julian’s story – and it is an amazing one. She lived in the time of the black plague, and lost several of her family members. She nearly died. In those moments, close to death, she encountered a vision of Christ which changed her life. She went on to live a life of prayer, in seclusion, writing about her experiences with primitive instruments. Her great conclusion was that Christ did NOT cause suffering, but was with us, loving us, and yes, All will be Well.
In her day, suffering was often blamed on sin. Today we might ask why the suffering, and where is the relief? Even Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
And even though I don’t fully understand it, there is a deep knowing that God does not CAUSE our pain. Jesus wept at suffering, He cried at the death of his friend Lazarus, even as he knew he would come back to life. There is a deep reassurance that God is WITH us in our pain and suffering.
These troubles, and the troubles of our lives are short in the light of eternity. We are promised forever. We will have brand new bodies, released from suffering. No, I certainly don’t understand it all, my faith is much more simple. But it is sure on this fact: that I am loved by God, we all are. So I can be still. I can be at peace. All will be well.