Faith Meets World

Reflections on faith in a messed-up but beautiful world

Category: Quotes (Page 1 of 21)

All shall be well

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

These words were penned by fourteenth century English mystic Julian of Norwich in what would come to be known as her Showings. They have become a source of encouragement to many in times of uncertainty and turbulence; indeed, I have often quoted them myself. In the turbulent aftermath of the US presidential election, I have already seen them offered as a note of much-needed comfort to those who are understandably fearful about the future of America and the world.

However, I think a note of caution is required as regards how we understand these famous words.

It’s tempting to see Lady Julian’s words as an assurance that nothing bad will happen to us: that, whatever might befall us, there will always be some kind of providential safety net to protect us from the worst. But that cannot be so, for two reasons. First, Julian is thought to have written these words while deathly ill; as such, whatever it was that moved her to write them, it was not a firm conviction that she would recover and live to a ripe old age. (In fact, she did recover and live for another thirty-three years, but that’s another story.) And second, we clearly live in a world in which dreadful and deadly things can and do happen to even the most godly and selfless people.

That being the case, to attempt to use these words as a shield against the vagaries of life is to distort them into a cheap platitude that denies the reality both of the circumstances in which they were written and of the world as we know it.

How, then, are we to understand and take encouragement from Lady Julian’s affirmation? I think there are two ways we can do so.

First, Julian’s words remind us that, no matter how great the storm that encircles us, it is possible for us to be truly at peace with ourselves and the world; not easy, but possible. To achieve this kind of inner peace takes great self-awareness and a determined pursuit of inner silence and solitude – things Lady Julian herself pursued to what most would consider an extreme degree. In this way, it is possible for us to sincerely assert that “all is well” even in the midst of the storm, just as nineteenth century hymn-writer Horatio Spafford was able to write the famous words “It is well with my soul” even in the wake of his financial ruin and the tragic deaths of all five of his children.

And second, as those who believe that death has been swallowed up in the victory of resurrection, we can genuinely hold fast to the truth that even if the very worst should happen, it will not be the end of the story. This is surely how Lady Julian was able to remain resolutely hopeful even in the face of what she probably assumed was her imminent death.

So, in these uncertain times, let us be encouraged, and let us encourage one another, but not with trite and hollow promises about an earthly future none of us can predict. Rather, let us seek the kind of peace that is offered by the Prince of Peace, and let us hold firmly to the hope that even death, should it unexpectedly come knocking, is not the end, but merely a doorway to another part of the journey.

[ Image: Ian ]

A joyous opportunity

The loss of Christendom gives us a joyous opportunity to reclaim the freedom to proclaim the gospel in a way in which we cannot when the main social task of the church is to serve as one among many helpful props for the state.

— Stanley HauerwasResident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony

Only the present

Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment ‘as to the Lord.’ It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.

— C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Come to the feast

Healing is impossible in loneliness; it is the opposite of loneliness. Conviviality is healing. To be healed we must come with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation.

— Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Everything that breathes

Everything that breathes, breathes by air and cannot live without air; similarly all reasonable free creatures live by the Holy Spirit, as though by air, and cannot live without Him. “Every soul is quickened by the Holy Spirit.” Recognise that the Holy Spirit stands in the same relation to your soul as air stands in relation to your body.

St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ

A restoration project

Salvation is a restoration project, not an evacuation project!

— Brian Zahnd, A Farewell To Mars

Vast fullness

The mark of a life governed by the Holy Spirit is that such a life is continually and ever more and more occupied with Christ, that Christ is becoming greater and greater, more wonderful as time goes on. The effect of the Holy Spirit’s work in us is to bring us to the shore of a mighty ocean which reaches far, far beyond our range, and concerning which we feel: oh, the depths, the fullnesses, of the riches of Christ! If we live as long as ever man lived, we shall still be only on the fringe of this vast fullness that Christ is.

— T. Austin Sparks, from A Witness and a Testimony magazine, Sep-Oct 1968, Vol 46-5

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