Faith Matters - What to do with your doubtsCan you identify who said these things? • There is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead. It has been like this more or less from the time I started the work. • I am told God lives in me –and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul. • I have such deep longing for God but am repulsed… empty… no faith, no love… no zeal.
By: Kent Stillson, Pastor, Alexandria Echo Press
Can you identify who said these things?
• There is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead. It has been like this more or less from the time I started the work.
• I am told God lives in me –and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.
• I have such deep longing for God but am repulsed… empty… no faith, no love… no zeal.
These are not the words of a depressed, angry, self-absorbed person who rejects God and hates people. Far from it. They are the words of Mother Teresa.
Father Brian Kolodiejchuk has compiled many of Mother Teresa’s private writings from the last 50 years of her life. At her request, these writings were released only after her death.
Can you believe it? The Saint of Calcutta, who faithfully served the poorest of the poor of India and the world for 69 years, had serious questions! Who would have thought that the nun whose humble work gave rise to 350 mission centers in 77 countries had doubts!
Some may consider the doubts of Mother Teresa as evidence that God does not exist. I consider Mother Teresa’s details of her spiritual darkness hopeful. I too have times of doubt. I too question what God is up to and why God allows certain things to happen.
The good news in Mother Teresa’s story is one’s faith need not be perfect. Faith is seldom a straight path or tidy endeavor. Faith is asking questions, wrestling with the will of God and going forward in spite of the darkness.
We recognize Mother Teresa as the smiling, saintly servant of God. Yet, privately, she considered herself “the nun of darkness.” She shared the emptiness only with her priest confessors over the years.
Her writings explain not only the darkness but also what sustained her. Her call from God to become a nun came as a young girl. Mother Teresa’s continual prayer was, “All Jesus and nothing me.” “Use me for your work, Lord.” “God, please take everything I have for the sake of the poor.”
Mother Teresa considered her emptiness and darkness an answer to those prayers.
The good news is God uses people with less than perfect faith. Mother Teresa is one example. The Bible gives us numerous others.
The disciple Thomas couldn’t believe Jesus was resurrected, but when Jesus spoke to him, he responded, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus himself questioned from the cross, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” In I Corinthians 15, Paul describes doubts this way: “For now we see in a mirror dimly.”
What are we to do with our questions and doubts? See them as proof that God doesn’t exist? Beat ourselves up for being imperfect? Use our doubts as an excuse to stay away from church?
Certainly not! The Bible and the witness of the lives of others tell us: God uses even the biggest doubters and those with darkness to be light bearers for others.
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Kent Stillson is a pastor at Bethesda Lutheran Church in Alexandria. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.