During my college career I sang with a variety of choral groups. During my senior year I had the opportunity to sing with a small group of 16 men. I recall one short piece which included the words “…and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” These hopeful words came from the writings of the 14th century mystic, Julian of Norwich, who evidently was the first woman to write a book in English, a book she rewrote twenty years later in an expanded version.
We all want to be well—physically, spiritually, and emotionally—we also wish for good circumstances and for things to work out well in our lives. However, we know that this is not always the case. Things go awry. They do not always work out the way we want. Accidents happen, people get sick, and we are besieged by all manner of difficulties. What helps us through and beyond these kinds of times is having faith which is grounded in the Divine. A faith that helps us remember again and again that God is present, guiding and strengthening us. The writer of the Letter of the Hebrews in the Bible reminds us of God’s promise:
(TEV, Hebrews 13:6)
Julian of Norwich would have known this well. The times in which she lived and wrote were filled with difficulty–outbreaks of the bubonic plague, cattle diseases, bad harvests, famine, and social unrest. In addition, the Hundred Years War began between England and France and the “Great Schism” happened when the Catholic Church was ruled by two men who claimed to be the Pope. It was a time of intense conflict and instability. Julian had a great thirst for God in which she sought her maker’s wisdom and grace. The divine revelations she received would have strengthened not only her, but also the people who came to seek her spiritual counsel.
In these times in which the world often seems like a precarious place to live and perhaps some of our own circumstances may make life look uncertain, it is more important than ever to have a spiritual grounding in the One who is above all things. Left to ourselves, we might feel akin to a bottle aimlessly bobbing in the waters of the sea. However, with God, we are promised a deep anchor of strength and connectedness. With God ultimately all things shall be well. The writer of Psalm 63 assures us of God’s presence and constant protection—the kind that Julian of Norwich embraced:
O God, you are my God,
I seek you, my soul thirsts for you
as a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you
So I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on your name
My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips.
When I think of you on my bed,
and meditate on your in the watches of the night,
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
May we pray each day as we enter the Epiphany season in the confidence of the psalmist and the hope of Julian of Norwich. All shall be well!