We have learned in recently-revealed private journals, which Mother Theresa had not wanted published and are now being published under the title Come Be My Light, that the little Albanian nun struggled with her faith as she ministered to the poor of India.
And that is big news? I speak with strong, godly believers almost every week who struggle, in some way, with faith. Some of those who have shared with me their struggles have been ordained ministers of the Gospel. The barrage of events that life is capable of bringing to us can quite literally bring us to our knees. In some way the release of Mother Theresa’s private notes have worked, perhaps to the chagrin of those who hoped that her private struggles would work to hurt Christianity, to bolster believers. For we see that saints are not impervious to hardship and spiritual attacks of the soul. In fact, the Apostle Paul revealed that he, too, struggled spiritually in the face of overwhelming opposition:
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death (2 Corinthians 1:8, 9a ESV).
Moreover, our Savior, in the garden of Gethsemane, anguished under the unimaginable burden of becoming a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
The revelation that Mother Theresa had conflict in her soul about God’s presence in the midst of the seemingly God-abandoned heap of Calcutta’s desperate and dying masses does not disprove her faith but proves it all the more. I am not a Roman Catholic apologist, but I do see in this story the story of so many. And what I am sure of is that Mother Theresa believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. When I hear of people in our congregation and our community who struggle with faith in the vicissitudes of life, I also see you, like Abraham, believing, sometimes against all hope (Romans 4:18). I know that when we suffer to the point of agony and even feeling abandoned by God, we are becoming living instruments of worship and praise so that we can affirm the statement of Paul:
Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead (1 Corinthians 1.9).
Jay Tolson, of U.S. News & World Report, put it right, I think, when he wrote:
“Teresa’s spiritual struggle may have been painfully long, but it was a struggle felt by most believers in an age of doubt and skepticism. In that sense, it was truly exemplary.”
And all God’s struggling saints said, “Amen!”
Jay Tolson, “Mother Teresa’s Struggle,” August 29, 2007, U.S. News & World Report.