The first was minde of his passion;
The second was bodily sickness in youth;
The third was to have of God’s gift three wounds.
In other words, she wanted to understand and always remember Christ’s passion. She wanted to come close to the door of death while still young enough to profit from what she might see through it. And she wanted to participate in Jesus’ sufferings through her own wounds.
This is as far from the prosperity gospel as it’s possible to get. When we move from the extreme of the prosperity gospel to the comfortable center of modern Christianity, we can imagine praying to be spared from suffering or for strength in suffering; but not many of us ask God to wound us and bring us to the brink of death.
Should we? Perhaps Julian’s prayer is an example of medieval extremism on the opposite end of the spectrum to the prosperity gospel, while balanced Christians should aim for the sane middle ground. Her seeming fascination with mortality and illness may be a neurotic reaction to living through the Black Death. But I don’t think that’s the case, because she’s not alone in her embrace of suffering. The saints throughout the centuries have been not just willing but avid to suffer with Christ and on his behalf. And when their prayers are granted, they like Julian pass on to us a message of joy and grace.
I don’t pray for suffering. My most heartfelt pleas are to avoid it, and my most thankful prayers are for my physical comforts. Am I missing something?
What do you think?