Julian of Norwich: Anchored to love

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Not much is known about Julian of Norwich.

We don’t even know if Julian is her real name.

Some have suggested that she was a Benedictine nun who had never been married. Others point to the ways in which she refers to motherhood in her writing and have surmised that she may have lost her family in the plague when it ravaged the town of Norwich.

We don’t know who she may have been, but we have some idea of who she became thanks to the writings contained in what is believed to be the first book written in English by a woman.

Julian at some point in her life decided to become an anchoress. An anchoress typically lived in a small cell attached to a church, living a life of prayer and contemplation. It’s believed that Julian’s cell had two windows – one looking into the church and the other looking onto the street where people would come to seek advice.

During a near fatal sickness, Julian received a series of revelations in which she saw Jesus in his glory as well as his mother, Mary. She is also shown the meaning and power of Christ’s suffering.

In one of the revelations, she received an answer to a question she had for some time. It’s a question that many Christian contemplate at one time or another: Why did God not prevent sin from entering the world in the first place?

The answer, as it is revealed, became one of the most often quoted phrases from the book that she would write based on the revelations,

But Jesus, who in this vision informed me of all that is needed by me, answered with these words and said: ‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

In this, she learned that in Christ all things will be put right, and that is likely the message she continued to share to the people of Norwich as they endured plague, poverty and famine. She also shared a message of God’s love.

“And I saw full surely that ere God made us He loved us; which love was never slacked nor ever shall be. And in this love He hath done all His works, and in this love He hath made all things profitable to us, and in this love our life is everlasting.”

Shortly after receiving the visions, Julian wrote a short version of the reflections. A longer version was written after some 20 years of meditation on the revelations, which included her interpretation as to their meaning.

Julian died 33 years after her experience, having lived from about 1342 to 1416.

In our most difficult times, it is hard to believe that “all shall be well,” but we are assured that God works all things for the good of those who love him. The key is to be fully anchored in that belief long before the trouble strikes. What can you do today to anchor your life in the hope of Christ?

***

This is the seventh post in my Write 31 Days series for 2017 in which I am taking a devotional look at key women in Christian history. For more information, or to start the series from the beginning, visit the introductory post.

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