Joy in Tribulation

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Mar 12, 2009 by Howard Baker | 0 Comments

Julian of Norwich's 14th century world was torn by the Black Plague, assassinations of public officials, incredible violence, war, and social unrest. Understandably, there was a climate of fear and a questioning of God's love and mercy.

In that dismal culture Julian boldly stood against the brooding pessimism with a buoyant, yet well-grounded hope. She corrected misperceptions about her "courteous Lord" with statements such as, "He did not say: You will not be troubled, you will not be belaboured, you will not be disquieted; but he said: You will not be overcome." And again, "...for it is his will that we know that all the power of the enemy is shut in the hand of our Friend."

She was no flighty "Pollyanna" pretending that pain and evil weren't a threat. But her experience with Jesus gave her a settled faith that resurrection is the backdrop for crucifixion, that suffering is the prelude to glory, and that pain is an opportunity for redemption.

In her words, "And at the end of woe, suddenly our eyes will be opened, and in the clearness of our sight our light will be full, which light is God, our Creator, Father, and the Holy Spirit, in Christ Jesus our savior. So I saw and understood that our faith is our light in our night, which light is God, our endless day. (Howard Baker, The One True Thing, p. 42)

Dame Julian's words are reminiscent of two paradoxical promises that are embedded in Jesus' prayer in John 17:1) In this world we will have tribulation; 2) We will have fullness of joy. Indeed, her words help us embrace the paradox of joy in the midst of heartache and struggle.

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