I came across this article while waiting at my chiroprator’s office. Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith.
It is quite a long article; if you do not have time to read it, I will summarize; Mother Teresa spent over 50 years in what the author calls spiritual darkness. An excerpt of Mother Teresa’s writing:
“Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? The Child of your Love – and now become as the most hated one – the one – you have thrown away as unwanted – unloved. I call, I cling, I want – and there is no One to answer – no One on whom I can cling – no, No One.”
At times she also expressed questions as to the very existence of God.
My strongest reaction from this article came not from the fact that Mother Teresa felt spiritually estranged from God, but from the claims and response of the author of the article to her writings. David Van Biema claims that Mother Teresa’s outward expressions of love for God - her commitment to devote her life for him, and her inner, most private doubts and feelings are “a startling portrait in self-contradiction.”
It is on this point where my soul reacts strongly. I think the author has missed the purpose of Mother Teresa’s life, and that his reaction to her deep struggle stems from a serious misunderstanding of faith.
I believe that doubt is an intricate part of faith. I also believe that pain is an intricate part of faith. It does not surprise me that Mother Teresa felt this pain, asked these questions, and wrote these words. In the same breath, it does not surprise me that she held fast to her God. In spite of (or, I might even suggest, because of) her pain, she still clung to Christ, and continued to use her hands and her heart for his work on earth.
I respectfully think that the author of this article wrongly assumes that love and estrangement cannot exist in the same relationship.
My dance with Christ has, over the years, jumped all across the spectrum. At times we play together, laugh together. Explore together. At other times, times which I find no less meaningful, we seem as separate as East is from the West. I understand that longing and that pain which Mother Teresa writes about. But there are no moments (well, ok, very few moments) where I would not consider myself to be His child, to be in an intimate relationship with Him, to speak of Him as my All, even though I feel painfully estranged from Him at that moment. I can understand why this can sound like somewhat of a contradiction, especially to someone who has not chosen to take on a journey of faith. But from my experience, it is all part of the same. Faith is a mystery. To try to unpackage it completely; to reduce it to linear rules of love and relationship is to limit its fullness as well as its beauty.
I don’t always feel close to Christ. There are days and moments where I am overwhelmed with frustration, tears, and anger which stem directly from this seeming divide. But I do not believe, in any way, that these feelings and longing are sinful, unique, or even unnecessary. I trust that Christ has me in his arms. And it is that trust – that faith – which prevails over all doubts and feelings.
We are connected. Always.
Near the end of Mother Teresa’s life, she did not move from the feeling of spiritual darkness. But, she wrote these words:
“for the first time in . . . years – I have come to love the darkness.”
“I just have the joy of having nothing – not even the reality of the Presence of God.”
“If this brings you glory . . . with joy I accept all to the end of my life.”
She eventually took joy in her professed state of darkness. And that is a powerful testament.
May her testament bring you hope. It brings hope to me.