Wherever you are in the world, I hope you are well. It’s easy to say that, is it not, “I hope you are well”? yet I know that many of us do not think of ourselves as well, whether it be physically or mentally. It’s a thought that has moved me to write down the following reflections.
All shall be well
The saying ‘All shall be well’ is one I often use to sign off email and WhatsApp messages. The full saying is
‘All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well’.
Sometimes I hesitate about using the phrase. It’s too easy to say to someone in distress. ‘Oh, don’t worry, cheer up, things will get better.’ Sometimes I cringe when I hear people say these things, usually with the best of intentions. How can you say ‘all will be well’ to someone dying of cancer or to a parent who has just lost a child?
The saying comes from a woman of the 14th century, Julian of Norwich. We know little about her other than she was a holy person to whom many people came for support and reassurance in times of trouble. And there was a lot of trouble at the time, the bubonic plague pandemic or Black Death as it came to be called, being the most devastating, killing globally some 75–200 million people.
Julian’s were not, however, the easily said words of someone trying to comfort the distress of others. She herself was struck down by the plague and was critically ill. She was in fact expected to die in a matter of days. It was in this seemingly desperate situation that she uttered the words, all shall be well.
At the end of 2023 and the beginning of 2024, when we look around at the catastrophic events of our world, we might ask ourselves how we dare say, ‘all will be well’? Knowing what is happening, and what might yet happen, how can we even wish someone a ‘Happy New Year’?
And yet we do. We do wish others ‘Happy Christmas’ and ‘Happy New Year’.
It’s not that we are ignoring the suffering, pretending it isn’t there or that it will go away anytime soon. It’s not that we don’t care, we do care. It’s because, I suggest, there’s something in the human spirit, difficult to put a name to, but a sort of hope, belief, even a stubbornness that in quiet moments, deep down, prevents us from giving in. In those quiet moments we may even sense, fleetingly, that things are in fact okay. Put simply, it is often in the most desperate situations that the best of us comes out.
We see the best in the serene faces of critically ill people who have come to terms with their situation; we see the hope and determination in the words of young soldiers fighting for the survival of their country. We can witness the very best in the dignified attitudes of destitute people whether they live in the UK or in impoverished regions of Africa.
It is the courage of these people and our own that dare us to say, yes, all shall be well.
And, curiously, it is their distress and our own that drives us to help change all the many things that are not well.
I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
PS: You’ll find previous reflections further down on this page.
As always get back to me with your own thoughts. I do appreciate them. And if you or anyone you know would like to get in touch with me for counselling or life coaching, please do not hesitate. And please, don’t let finances get in the way. I know that our budgets are tight these days and I am more than happy to discuss rates that are affordable for you.