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Mother Teresa’s Secret

2007 August 25
by Mike

Last week I preached on doubt, insisting again that it isn’t the opposite of faith. I like Frederick Buechner’s insightful words: “Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith.”

Now word comes out about the doubts that tormented Mother Teresa, even as she continued doing the work of Christ. This doesn’t diminish my appreciation for her; rather, it strengthens it.

17 Responses leave one →
  1. August 25, 2007

    Me, too, Mike. I can’t figure out why they’re making such a big deal out of this.

  2. August 25, 2007

    Mike –

    How important a task is it for the church to communicate publicly what true faith is? How important is it for us (right now – in this context) to show people that doubt is crucial to faith – that to have faith isn’t to understand or have answers to all the tough questions?

    Grace –

    Joe James

  3. August 25, 2007

    I like Tillich’s definition of faith: the state of being ultimately concerned. With that definition, doubt is still an act of faith. He says, “If faith is understood as belief that something is true, doubt is incompatible with the act of faith. If faith is understood as being ultimately concerned, doubt is a necessary element in it. It is a consequence of the risk of faith.”

  4. August 25, 2007

    for those of us who struggle with faith and doubt, it’s comforting to know that those who we sometimes mistakenly believe are beyond such things also have their moments as well.

  5. August 25, 2007

    Wow. As I look up from my desk right now I see 3 books inspired by the words of Mother Teresa. Doubt is a part of growth, I am living that right now. Mother lived her life for others and with the blessing of the Lord she touched more lives than I could ever imagine, one being my own. I can only imagine that being in such poverty and surrounded and tending to the dying would be so overwhelming that it had to affect her faith. I always assumed that she was feeling the Lord through it all and that gave her peace. This is just another reminder to me that no one has faith that is perfect until we are living it in Glory.

  6. August 25, 2007

    Looks like Mother Teresa was a Winter Christian.

    Here’s my take. Despite the ubiquity of Winter Christians in every church many if not most of our worship assemblies and Sunday school classes are Summer Resorts (spiritually speaking). The majority of the psalms were songs of lament and protest. Do our worship services reflect that truth?

    From Walter Brueggemann’s The Message of the Psalms:

    It is a curious fact that the church has, by and large, continued to sing songs of orientation in a world increasingly experienced as disoriented…It is my judgment that this action of the church is less an evangelical defiance guided by faith, and much more a frightened, numb denial and deception that does not want to acknowledge or experience the disorientation of life. The reason for such relentless affirmation of orientation seems to me, not from faith, but from the wishful optimism of our culture. Such a denial and cover-up, which I take it to be, is an odd inclination for passionate Bible users, given the larger number of psalms that are songs of lament, protest, and complaint about an incoherence that is experienced in the world…I believe that serous religious use of the lament psalms has been minimal because we have believed that faith does not mean to acknowledge and embrace negativity. We have thought that acknowledgement of negativity was somehow an act of unfaith, as though the very speech about it conceded too much about God’s “loss of control”…The point to be urged here is this: The use of these “psalms of darkness” may be judged by the world to be acts of unfaith and failure, but for the trusting community, their use is an act of bold faith…

  7. August 25, 2007

    You’re starting to sound ’emergent’.

    Bring it on.

  8. August 25, 2007

    qb’s sorta glad they ARE making such a big deal out of this whole thingy with Mother Teresa, because it brings to life and consciousness something that C. S. Lewis wrote many decades ago in _The Screwtape Letters_ and that Dallas Willard excerpted as an epigraph to his _Divine Conspiracy_:

    “You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to over-ride a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve…Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be….He cannot “tempt” to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger, than when a human, no longer desiring, but intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

    ISTqb that Mother Teresa is merely one titanic example of precisely what Lewis has shown us, and spending some time considering her example ought to have some salutary effect.


  9. Jason permalink
    August 25, 2007

    Back in 2003, First Things actually had an article about Mother Teresa’s intense doubting:

    The article draws a comparison between her since of feeling abandoned by God and Christ in Gethsemane. That’s one of the most profound ways that Christ shared in our sufferings, and, in turn, perhaps that’s one of the ways we must suffer as Christians.

  10. Jason permalink
    August 25, 2007

    Umm…make that her “sense” of abandonment.

  11. Jon Crosslin permalink
    August 25, 2007

    The internetmonk had a great article on this as usual. If you haven’t read his stuff its really great.

    You can check out the article here

  12. August 26, 2007

    How could one see the depths of poverty, despair and hopelessness that she saw day after day and not doubt?

    Still she persisted in compassion.

    Her ongoing works testified to her faith in God working through her.

  13. August 27, 2007

    I was thinking about this yesterday (while the preacher at this church we were visiting was trying his hardest to entertain me and everybody else, not that I’m bitter about it), and I started to wonder what Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill might have to say to me. The language of “groping in the dark” to find an “unknown God” really resonates sometimes. Is that possibly an indication of how thoroughly Greek my Christianity has become?


  14. August 27, 2007

    This shows her humanity.
    That even someone as wonderful as her isn’t perfect.
    That she isn’t the infallible person the Catholic church wants to make into saints.
    That even I, a very sinful, messed up human, can do the will of God.
    God bless Teresa’s doubt.

  15. Jenna permalink
    August 27, 2007

    I agree with all of the above, and that was my first reaction to reading the article mentioned. But as I think more about it, I think, “Thirty years???!!” What about promises of abundant life? what about promises of living water gushing forth? What kept her from backing out of her ministry, at least for a time, to find the joy of her own salvation? If she is like me and others I know, she could have thought that the work she was doing wouldn’t have gotten done without her…I would like to think that God would have rathered her conquer her doubts and allow him to raise up others to do his work with the poor of India…

  16. Jason permalink
    August 27, 2007

    Yes, in one sense I find solace in her story. However, I don’t understand why God didn’t ease her doubts a bit.

  17. August 27, 2007

    here is a great radio program from speaking of faith about the history of doubt that i found to be enlightening.

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