This past Sunday, Gord Johnson led us in singing one of his original songs for worship, “All Will be Well.” As we were singing, it occurred to me that some in the congregation might be finding that repeated line, “All will be well” a bit on the optimistic side, perhaps even blithely so. Isn’t it a bit naïve to repeatedly sing that all will be well, and to sound as if we actually believed it? And that on a Sunday on which the sermon emphasized that often the claim and call that God places on us is pretty challenging, calling us way out of our zones of comfort and control.
Behind Gord’s song is a famous quote from the writings of a fourteenth-century mystic and theologian, Julian of Norwich. In her one book, The Revelations of Divine Love, Julian reflects on a series of sixteen visions or “showings” that she received over two days in 1373. In The Revelations, Julian writes of how at the age of thirty she experienced these visions, and then shortly thereafter moved permanently into a cell attached to the parish church of St. Julian and St. Edward in Coniston, England. In everything God revealed to her, Julian wrote, “Love was our Lord’s meaning. And I saw for certain, both here and elsewhere, that before ever he made us, God loved us, and that his love has never slackened, nor ever shall.”
It was in light of this that she could write her most famous line, “Sin is behovely, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” That word “behovely” means something between “necessary” and “inevitable,” and what she is saying here is that sin simply is a part of the world as we know it. Sin is a source of pain and suffering, yet it is can also be a path to self-knowledge, in that insofar as we become aware of our own brokenness and failings, we may well be moved to seek God.
Yet Julian is clear that sin will not have the final say, for in God “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” As she saw in her first vision—in which God held out to her what appeared to be a hazelnut, which she realized symbolized the whole of the created universe—“the world exists, both now and for ever, because God loves it… everything owes its existence to the love of God.” Her posture, then, is not one of naïveté or of shallow optimism, but rather it is one of foundational trust.
And it is that kind of trust that informs Gord’s song.
- To listen to a basic recording of song, taken live during worship, click the arrow:
You, know in your heart, know in your mind, know that it’s true There comes a day when all will be well All will be well Though now we may see, only in part, not very clearly Maybe not now, but there comes a day When all will be well Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia All will be well All will be well – You, you’re not alone, you’re part of a people, under the grace Under the mercy, carried by love And all will be well So go into the world, walk in the light, walk in forgiveness Knowing the hope, glorious hope That all will be well Alleluia… – We, go in the name, the name of the Father, the name of the Son The name of the Spirit, knowing our part And all will be well He will do so much more, than we can ask, than we can imagine Glory to God, glory to God All will be well Alleluia… (words and music © Gord Johnson)