Reflections on spiritual themes (and a few other things).

Doubting Teresa

She was known popularly as Mother Teresa. She died in 1997 at the age of 87. She spent 50 of those years in the streets of Calcutta, India, working among its poorest and sickest residents. 

After she died it was learned that she struggled for much of her adult life with nagging doubts about her faith and God. Whatever you think of her, I suspect the “Saint of the Gutters” has more sympathizers than detractors. Any Christian who’s struggled with doubt can sympathize. 

The most faithful of men and women struggle at times with doubt, or at least with what we know is God’s will for us.

  • Job declared, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13.15). 
  • At times, Moses preferred death to leading the Israelites (Exodus 17.4; 32.32; 33.15). 
  • Jeremiah accused God of deception and coercion: “O Lord, You have deceived me and I was deceived; You have overcome me and prevailed” (Jeremiah 20.7). 
  • In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus confessed, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death… If it is possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26.38-39). 

Faith, struggle, and doubt often exist side-by-side. It’s not that faith is swallowed up by doubt, but that doubt is kept at bay by faith. Doubt forms as we try to reconcile the contradictions and conundrums of life. Faith is how we sort through these issues to find answers. 

I want to suggest two solutions. First, Teresa of Calcutta, despite her doubts, kept working. Paul said that what matters is, “faith working through love” (Galatians 5.6). He said, “do not lose heart in doing good” (6.9). Keep working.

Second, in one letter Teresa noted that, “I accept not in my feelings — but with my will, the Will of God — I accept His will.” That’s a crucial distinction. Doubt is sometimes fostered when we put feelings above facts. Frankly, there may be times when we don’t “feel like” being Christians, yet we keep doing what’s right. John said, “We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things” (1 John 3.19-20). Keep seeking God’s will.

Doubt is sometimes a necessary if unwelcome companion to faith. But the apostle Paul’s insight can help us keep doubt in its place: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you” (2 Corinthians 4.7-12).

1 Comment

  1. Bob

    Thank you brother.
    Gotten a doze for the day through eternity

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