So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them — because of the blasphemy — If there be God — please forgive me — When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven — there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. — I am told God loves me — and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.
The above is a quotation from recently published letters of Mother Teresa. It is just one of many quotations in which she confesses her doubt and pain. At one point she confesses that she has been driven to doubt the existence of heaven, and even of God.
What are we to make of this? Some would accuse Mother Teresa of hypocrisy. She accuses herself of the same thing. I would not.
Anyone who is familiar with scripture would find Mother Teresa’s words familiar. Many of the Psalms are confessions of spiritual emptiness. The Apostle Paul often confessed his own darkness of soul.
Frederick Buechner wrote, “Without somehow destroying me in the process, how could God reveal himself in a way that would leave no room for doubt? If there were no room for doubt, there would be no room for me.”
The point is Mother Teresa and all of us are called to act on faith. The strength of our faith is not shown in how often we experience the presence of God, but in what we do when we have no sense of God’s presence whatsoever. When we feel like our prayers aren’t getting past the ceiling, we pray anyway. When we feel like our efforts are in vain, we still take up the cross and follow.
Rather than turning me off, the confessions of Mother Teresa make me appreciate her more. She is a saint to whom I can relate.
Her confessions magnify the greatness of her deeds. She would want none of this. She wanted her letters destroyed. She wrote, "I want the work to remain only His." If the letters became public, she explained, "people will think more of me — less of Jesus."
Speaking of Jesus--remember the words he spoke from the cross? “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Even in the midst of his feelings of abandonment, he still prayed, “My God, my God.” May we all remain faithful servants even in the dark night of the soul and thus follow in the footsteps of our Lord and Mother Teresa’s.
©2007 C. David Hess