All Shall be Well! Really?

After that the Lord brought to my mind the yearning that I had for Him in the past, and I saw that nothing stood in my way except sin (and thus I observed universally in us all).

And it seemed to me that if sin had not been, we would all have been pure and like to our Lord as He made us, and thus, in my folly, before this time I often wondered why, by the great foreseeing wisdom of God, the beginning of sin was not prevented, for then, it seemed to me, all would have been well. I ought much to have given up this disturbing wondering, but never theless, I made mourning and sorrow about it without reason or discretion.

But Jesus (who in this vision informed me of all that I needed) answered by this word and said: "Sin is inevitable, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."

Revelations of Divine Love. Ch. 27 | Translation by Fr. John-Julian OJN. Lesson of Love.

Julian of Norwich is often quoted as having said "All Shall be Well!" It is perhaps the most famous passage from her Revelations of Divine Love. However, when you read the Revelations themselves — the passage occurs in Chapter 27 — what you discover is that in the first instance it was not Julian who said this, but God who said it to Julian. Furthermore, Julian then goes on to argue with God for a full 13 chapters about how all things could not possibly turn out well!

Julian presents God with the suffering of the world, as well as apparent evil, and even the Church's teaching regarding hell. How could all things be well once we take into accout all this suffering and pain? Responding to Julian's repeated challenges, God assures her that God will in the mysterious action of divine love and power and wisdom make all things well. God even presents Julian with examples of how suffering has been made well, and sin into glory. But still Julian presses on, wanting to know how all things could be made well. Ultimately, God does not explain how things could be made well, but invites Julian to trust in that future of wellness. 

For us today this is really important. First, knowing that Julian argued with God is helpful to us who find it hard to believe that all could ever be made well. Taking on the saying "all shall be well" is not a simplistic devotion or a mental mind game; it is an invitation to live more trustingly. It is a profound invitation to notice how condemning we are of reality in ordinary life, and to experiment with letting go of these condemnations, to live in a way without the protection such condemnations offer.

This might seem at first quite scary, but if we reflect on this, what we usually discover is that our condemning judgements actually serve to hold certain things at arm's length, so that we don't really have to feel their reality or they threat they represent, and that letting go of these condemnations actually puts us more in touch with reality and so more able to engage it creatively and actively for the good. 

All shall be well is radical, but not as a simple slogan. It invites us to a different way of being in daily life, our condemnations suspended, ourselves more sensitively in touch with what is, and so more creatively engaged. 

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