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« Betrayal | Main | Re: Betrayal »

August 28, 2007

The Crisis of Mother Teresa

Motherteresaindia In the current cover story of Time Magazine and a new book that compiles letters of Mother Teresa to her superiors, we learn that in her entire life as a nun, while being celebrated for her work, she experienced "darkness," "dryness," and "loneliness" of spirit. In fact at one point she questioned the existence of God. Mother Teresa believed in and loved God, she just couldn't feel or hear Him. She confessed in 1979 at the time she received the Nobel Prize, “Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.”

Just like her, all of us and all the great saints in the Bible and history experienced some kind of spiritual dryness. It has become part of our journey and finding God the highlight of our testimonies.

A sense of distance from the Lord hurts but it’s a demonstration of God’s love to let us feel broken and move us to daily pursue Him. Dryness is also God’s way of testing and refining our faith. To teach us that faithfulness is not because we “feel” God but because we trust God. Despite Mother Teresa’s inner struggles, she did not depend on her feelings but pressed on to do what she was called to do. She said, “You don’t have to be a saint to do good… you need willing hands not clean ones… If we wait for our souls to be totally clean, our time on earth will be swept away.” And finally she said, “When I finally see Jesus, I will tell Him that I loved Him in the darkness.”

What an excellent example of faith in the trustworthiness of God.

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I have been soaking up all of the reviews and commentaries of this book and can't wait to read a copy of it myself. What an sacred inner look at a truly amazing child of God!


Another from the chronicles of Christian history who very rarely felt the sweet presence of God was the poet William Cowper, who struggled with severe depression. Like Mother Theresa, Cowper understood the goodness of God without the goodness of feeling. I love this poem:

God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the LORD by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding ev'ry hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow'r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
GOD is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.

Diane Singer

Regardless of what we may learn about her inner struggles (what Christian doesn't have them?), she wanted those letters burned after her death. Shouldn't her wishes have been respected?

Carter Johnson

Recently I have read much from Catholic and Protestants who don’t seem to find it strange that for 50 years Mother Teresa had no consciousness of the presence of God or the love of Christ even though the Spirit of God, who lives in all believers, is the down payment of all that is to come. It is He who is called the Spirit of Adoption and it is He who testifies with our spirit that we are God’s. It is He who pours our in our hearts the love of God. Yet she knew nothing of His love. Why do not these Christian spokespersons find Mother Teresa's experience troubling?

Although I have read much recently in defense of the dark “lifetime” of the soul, I am not sure I see in Scripture a saint who cries out for 50 years “My God My God why have you forsaken Me.”

Concerning Cowper a previous writer mentioned, he also wrote the wonderful hymn "Sometimes a Light Surprises" which contains the following lyrics:

Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord, who rises
With healing in his wings:
When comforts are declining,
He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining,
To cheer it after rain.

In holy contemplation
We sweetly then pursue
The theme of God’s salvation,
And find it ever new;
Set free from present sorrow,
We cheerfully can say,
Let the unknown tomorrow
Bring with it what it may.

Although I have read much, I haven’t yet read a Christian commentator who has been willing to say that “maybe” and I highlight “maybe” that the gospel Mother Teresa embraced was not really the Gospel. Yes, it truly is a great thing to help someone die with dignity, but it seems strange to me that although Mother Teresa believed that Christ led her to care for the destitute and dying she didn’t feel that Christ was leading her to lead people to Him before they died with dignity. She said her life was a living Hell because God was not there, but what about an eternity of Hell that many in her care went to never having heard of the Gospel of Christ? I find her silence troubling to say the least.
And I also find Christian commentators silence troubling as well.

Steve Klein

My friend,
I have heard this criticism of Mother Teresa before. Please let me offer you one man's view:
Jesus said there would be one defining characteristic of His followers: "By this all men will know you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:35
In my limited knowledge, I'm not aware of another Christian in the modern age who has loved other people as well as Mother Teresa did. Her theology may have been flawed (and, like you, I emphasize "may"), but her practice, it would seem, was honed to a sublime level.

George Rose

I agree wholeheartly with Chuck's commentary, Amen! And I would like Chuck to answer these questions:
1. Does he recommend the book?
2. Is it right for the Catholic Church to release Mother Teresa's private letters?
3. How does Chuck harmonize his view on doubt with James 1:6?

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