Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Living through the darkness of doubt and abandonment

When Mother Theresa died in August of 1997 she was hailed by the world as a religious superstar. Her reputation as a tireless worker for the poor and oppressed in Calcutta India was well-known throughout the world. Her tireless, selfless life helped put her on the fast-track to sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.

Then in 2007, her secret letters to her confessor were published in a memoir titled Come be My Light. In them we learned that this women who man thought to be a great example of faith was actually tortured by doubt and sense that God had abandoned her. Few people knew what was going on in her mind and heart.

Over at the Church History Blog Grateful for the Dead, Chris Armstrong has posted an article that he is working on about Mother Theresa. It is an interesting read. Here is a short sample.

Nothing expresses the intensity of this loss better than Mother Teresa’s own words: “Now Father—since 49 or 50 this terrible sense of loss—this untold darkness—this loneliness—this continual longing for God—which gives me that pain deep down in my heart.—Darkness is such that I really do not see—neither with my mind nor with my reason.—The place of God in my soul is blank.—There is no God in me.—When the pain of longing is so great—I just long & long for God—and then it is that I feel—He does not want me—He is not there.—Heaven—souls—why these are just words—which mean nothing to me.—My very life seems so contradictory. I help souls—to go where?—Why all this? Where is the soul in my very being? God does not want me.—Sometimes—I just hear my own heart cry out—“My God” and nothing else comes.—The torture and pain I can’t explain.”

Neuner’s response was wise and to the point—and it freed Mother Teresa to continue her ministry in the assurance that this terrible experience of spiritual darkness was in itself both a confirmation and a magnification of the vocation God had given her: “My answer to the confession of these pages was simple: there was no indication of any serious failure on her part which could explain the spiritual dryness. It was simply the dark night of which all masters of spiritual life know—though I never found it so deeply, and for so many years as in her. There is no human remedy against it. It can be borne only in the assurance of God’s hidden presence and of the union with Jesus who in His passion had to bear the burden and darkness of the sinful world for our salvation. The sure sign of God’s hidden presence in this darkness is the thirst for God, the craving for at least a ray of His light. No one can long for God unless God is present in his/her heart. Thus the only response to this trial is the total surrender to God and the acceptance of the darkness in union with Jesus.”

Chris has done a good job of summarizing her life from the perspective of the darkness she suffered. You can read it here.


  1. This post has encourage me to continue in my ministry, even though I feel like I am alone and God does not respone to me when I ask Him to guide me. Eventhough I feel alone, I know that my calling is still important to me, despite the loneliness.

  2. "No one can long for God unless God is present in his/her heart."

    This sounds like something straight out of C. S. Lewis. I guess some people like C. S. Lewis.

    I can't be the first to say this but isn't it a bit odd that feeling God's presence is a sign that you are not alone but NOT feeling his presence is a sign that you are not alone? If you are looking for Paul's foolishness-to-the-Greeks, this is it. Just call it Faith and go about your business.

  3. Scott, sometimes it's not so simple as calling it faith and going about one's business. Most of the time it's pure travail. It's smacking your head against the wall, yet knowing that God is good...even when every bit of evidence reveals God is no longer in the building. It's a place I have lived for the last several years. Confessing the reality of God's love and in the distance.