Monday, August 27, 2007

Mother Theresa's Crises of Faith

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 I
hold on to God but that God holds on to me, not so much that I know God but
that God knows me.
This 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.

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 said this that blessed me, he said
"God abandoned One, so He does not need to abandon you"

Hebrews 13:5b
"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".


Magotty Man said...

Thank you for that, you have no idea how much I need that today! Thank you, and keep me in your fervent prayers.Please.

LPC said...


I prayed for you. It is a privilege to come before God bringing your needs, may his words comfort and encourage you.


Anonymous said...

As one who has never part of the Roman Church, does the fact that Rome does not teach an object understanding of how we are saved be a source of the questioning that Mother Therea's crises of faith? When one has a religion that paces the focus on the good works/one's decision of the individual as the basis of one's assurance of salvation, does that shift the focus from Christ's work to the individual's efforts?

Unknown said...

Personally, I find in Teresa's story a strong witness to the fact that we all experience times when it feels like God is absent; however that feeling of abscence in no way means that we have indeed been abandonded. THe fruits that Teresa bore says to me that she was not, in fact abandonded, despite her feeling that way.

LPC said...

Steve and Pr. David,

Perhaps my reply will be relevant to both your comments. I was a former RC kid, I got "converted" in my early 20s.

What I will say is speculative. There is every bit of likelihood that the Roman teaching on justification or the muffled or lack of it like as we understand it, contributes to this uncertainty. In the RC popular piety, Jesus is indeed on the Cross but what he is doing there is a mystery. RCs would mouth that Jesus paid for our sins, but then, we pay for it too in some sense via the sacraments. They will deny that, but the actions speak like so. So either Jesus paid it all or he did not.

Luther was an RC priest and he struggled the exact same way that Mother Theresa experienced. But there is a difference, Luther found relief in the Scripture that pointed him to the meaning of that Cross. I hope Mother Theresa found relief too in her last hours of her life.

Also notice that Mother Theresa was looking for some mystical experience. She was not trained, in very likely way, to look at the Scriptures as promises of God towards us. I should think if we are serious about the means of grace that the Scripture should be employed to our aid to comfort us.

For example Luther, used the Sacraments - he confessed "but I am baptized".

Whatever Mother Theresa experienced, we can not put any blame in her, what happened could be a product of teachings she absorbed.

It seems, if I want to know if Jesus loves me, I must look to the Cross. My feelings of dryness and emptiness are always assaulted by that Cross, that seems to be my experience thus far.

I often ask, what do I want in the end, do I want Jesus to appear in front of me and tell me, I love you my child?

It is convicting what Lazarus said to the rich man, he says they have Moses and the prophets, if they do not believe them then nothing will avail even if someone from the other world comes back and tells us.

May our confidence in God's precious promises to us found in his Word all the more increase.


J. K. Jones said...

“…Because I am a sinner, God has no reason to hold on to me.”

Accept that He cannot lie or be unfaithful to His promises to be for those who have faith in Christ, any faith at all whatsoever. The cross outside us has meaning because of the promises of God.

“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.”

We are praying for you in Tennessee!

LPC said...

Thanks bro.

I need that ministry this time for our family.

The Cross is really what we have and it is enough for all our needs.