Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Newsletter: Spiritual Self-Contradiction

“I am told God loves me--and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.”
These are the words of Mother Teresa in a prayer to Jesus as reported recently by Time magazine. The excerpt comes from a larger collection of letters and papers entitled, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light. The press coverage of the new book has suggested a scandal.

The talking heads on the cable news shows cluck that Mother Teresa was a hypocrite. Here is a woman who dedicated her life to God. Nonetheless, she often wandered in a spiritual desert. She had days, rather years, in which God seemed silent. The author of the Time article suggests that Teresa’s life presents “a startling portrait in self-contradiction.”

I only know Mother Teresa through her public persona. She was born in Macedonia and began her ministry in India at the age of 19. There she ministered to the poor and dying of Calcutta in the name of Christ. I cannot speak to her inner spiritual life. I am in no position to judge. However, is it possible to follow God and not feel God’s presence?
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?” (Psalm 22:1)
The psalmist believes that the answer is yes. In fact, Jesus himself speaks the psalmist’s words from the cross. Faithfulness does not mean happiness all the time. Discipleship can be accompanied by sorrow, silence, and suffering.

Human beings are emotional creatures. Our emotions can bring a passion and intensity to all of life. We should not neglect our feelings. Nonetheless, the love of God does not change when we cannot perceive it. We are saved by God’s grace in Jesus Christ, not our feelings. We must rely on the promises of the Scriptures and the collective faith of the church to sustain us when our own individual faith seems insufficient.

If you have never experienced the “self-contradiction” of spiritual dryness count yourself blessed. If you are like the rest of us, do not despair. Bring your fear, anger and doubt to God. Raise your concerns, and ask your questions. Wrestle with God, and even ask for a blessing. In the end, know that we belong to our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, even if we cannot feel it.

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