Over at Time magazine, there is an article that speaks of Mother Theresa's crises of faith. I read it with great interest and I hope you wonder off to the above link to get a context of what I am about to say here.
What is striking is that according to this article, Mother Theresa did not have the "presence of God" even in the last 50 years of her life. Now, no one can deny that Mother Theresa is an epitome of good works that all of us stand to be shamed, hands down. Our selfishness, and self-indulgence need no further commentary. You already know what I mean.
So, one would wonder, what drove her to these self-sacrificing care for the poor? Now, I will not deal deeper into the state of her standing with God. I do not know her heart. I do not know if she clung to the promise of God alone, that for Christ's sake her sins are forgiven, without throwing any of her good works to the mix. Her experience reminds me of my Jehovas Witnesses train buddy, George. Back in those years, I used to take the train to work and I happened to be-friend him. He saw me reading my Bible and we started conversing and converting one another. I think I got to around 96 hours of debate with him altogether. One time, George hopped into the carriage I was in, looking not so happy and quite burdened, I asked him, what was up? He said "well you know, if you remember Noah being in the ark with his family, they were probably not that happy too, sometimes it is like that in the kingdom of God. It is sweaty and unpleasant, ugly being around those animals, with their pooh and smell and that". I ignorantly replied "well, yes there is that, but over all I should be glad for after all I am being saved from the flood".
So, putting aside the crucial issue of Mother Theresa's object of faith, I do not know where it was placed for sure, but crises like these is absolutely guaranteed to hunt us. As our body is racked by sickness, weakness and ill health, we will be thrown into an ocean of doubt, dryness and feelings of being left alone to die. The abandonment so to speak. Sometimes, you would not even know who and what you are. I have fits of these. You see, life gets harder, as life gets older. In fact, I have attacks of atheism myself (see my article below). So what to do?
Some few points of observation:
1. If we are thinking that God comes to us by we doing some good work, He does not. Quit trying that route. He has already come, in Jesus, I should be content that He has come and I should see this in His Word and Sacraments. In other words, I should look into the promises of God, both verbal and visual forms that are outside me. If I look inside me, and draw spiritual energy there, well, we are bankrupt in the first place, that box is empty and emptiness is what I do get.
2. Our dryness, doubts, emptiness have nothing to do with the done deal of Jesus. All of these are experiences we go through, and the best way and may God grant it, is that God causes us to doubt our doubts, and make us skeptical of our dryness or His apparent lack of presence in us. There is no mucking around, we need to look at the Cross. Some follow the idea that God is holding them... like this saying here...
this is when I am glad to be a Reformed believer because it's not so much that IThis does not do anything for me, not because I am not Reformed, but because that is precisely what I am doubting - is God for me? Is he holding me? I do not know, for I am feeling forsaken at that time so this saying gives me no comfort. Why? Because I am a sinner, God has no reason to hold on to me. BTW that saying above brings you also down the slope that is inward looking. It will not do (at least for me). I suggest that only the Cross is the one that truly gives comfort. For me that is the only one that avails, by experience.
hold on to God but that God holds on to me, not so much that I know God but
that God knows me.
3. It is important that we continue to hear the Word preached to us, because we are wondering atheist ourselves. We need to be put back to our senses and in our place by someone else preaching Law/Gospel to us. Due to a very serious family crisis in my life today, I have not been in church as I had to travel inter-state over the week ends. Skipping worship services, I was tempted in my mind yesterday to say --"hmmm, I feel blah about going to church, I could get used to this". Then something in my head said - "you need to go to church, dumbo, you need to know you are a sinner", "you need Good News outside your situation, buck-o".
One time Pr. Tom Baker at www.lawgospel.com said this that blessed me, he said
"God abandoned One, so He does not need to abandon you"
"I will never leave you nor forsake you."
See also John 14:18. Oh my soul, hope in His word.
Do me a favor, when you see me dis-oriented, whack me in the head and send me a message telling me - "go read your blog".