Years ago I read a story about Mother Teresa that had a profound impact on my life. Many were waiting for the release of her personal letters. They believed that hidden in the pages were divine insights. However many were disappointed as the letters were found to contain no secret pathways to greater faith beyond what she had learned from the Word of God. Mother Teresa worried, suffered from stress and sometimes lived in fear just like the rest of us. Her letters revealed that she spent long periods of time crying out to God longing to feel His presence. Discovering she struggled with many of the same issues that all Christians do I found to be more helpful than breaking news that she possessed a superpower. Mother Teresa was only human. And yet she accomplished more in a day for the kingdom than many do in a lifetime. How? She lived Jesus’ command to love others as we love ourselves. But much more than that she cared for the poor as if they were Christ.
One important insight into the saintly belief system that must be understood before we continue is that saints see Jesus in the eyes of the poor. This was especially true in the life of Mother Teresa. Joy washed over her when she reached out to help others. But she was not immune to the sorrow caused from seeing such devastating pain, suffering and death on a daily basis. Called to help the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta she witnessed mankind at their very worst. Crime, neglect, abuse and death were all set before her daily. She left her bedroom each morning after putting on the full armor of God and walked out into hell on earth. Early in her mission work Mother Teresa learned that survival in such an environment required that she embrace suffering. She had to face pain and sorrow head on. But unlike many it didn’t make her bitter nor cause her to doubt God’s love. Surrounded by suffering she drove herself to deeper and deeper levels of empathy and compassion.
Often those Mother Teresa served on behalf of Christ only had days to live. Their bodies were almost completely consumed by starvation and illness when she found them. She bathed, fed and clothed them while sharing her knowledge of Christ. Even though she rarely felt enlightened she went about doing the Savior’s work as best she could. She said that God had called her to be a pencil in His hand and lived as such until the day she died. Every challenge was met with absolute obedience. She needed the poor as much as they needed her. In witnessing them receive comfort from her faith she was constantly reminded of the impact God has in the world when His children obey and do what He called them to do. In striving to serve the poor she was able to reach a level of compassion and empathy that has only been achieved by a very few throughout history.
When God was silent in Mother Teresa’s life she learned how to stand in her faith and discovered the strength she needed had already been placed within her. The command to do all we can do then stand is essential to our spiritual growth. It is in choosing to stay the course and trust God when He is silent that we learn perseverance and as we persevere our faith grows. One thing we must remember is that God is always present in every circumstance. We are never alone. Many confuse God’s presence with moments of enlightenment. Yes, there are times when we can actually feel God’s presence. This often occurs in our darkest hours after we have completely come to the end of ourselves. But, just because we don’t feel His presence daily doesn’t mean He isn’t with us. Of course Mother Teresa understood this fact fully. God gave her the strength to carry the weight she needed. He knitted her together in her mother’s womb gifting her with natural gifts which would enable her to accomplish what she would later be called to do. She was designed to carry the weight load placed upon her life in keeping with God’s promise that He will never give us anything that we cannot handle. He will not let life put more on us than we can bare. And our Heavenly Father also kept His promise to never leave or forsake her. The joy she saw in the eyes of those she shared her faith with revealed this fact. She found peace in their eyes. She often said she saw Christ in their eyes.
The flesh is weak so we cry out to God in worry, fear and frustration — Where are you? During these times God is silent causing us to seek Him more by studying His Word and doing His will. This inevitably increases our faith resulting in faith filled prayers. God is always there and when we doubt this fact His silence is exactly what we need. For it causes us to take our minds off temporary circumstances and focus once again solely on Him. Thus the real issue here is perspective. When we are in a negative state resulting from thoughts of worry, fear and frustration we see life completely differently than we do when we are focusing on God’s promises. Feelings and emotions are not stable. They change all the time. But God’s promises are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Beware of your emotions and feelings. We have in our arsenal peace which God gave us when we came to the faith. No one and no circumstance can rob us of this gift. We choose to lay it down. We forever have hope in our Lord Jesus Christ yet far too often we take our hope out of Christ and place it in people, temporary circumstances and things. And God strengthens us when we humble ourselves before Him in prayer. Then, doubt sweeps in brushing aside our peace, hope and strength. God never fails us but our emotions and feelings do. One thing we should take away from the example Mother Teresa lived is that even when she doubted God’s presence she still remained in service to Him. She kept serving regardless of how she felt. Emotions and feelings did not rule her life. She choose the truth of the Gospel over any and every negative thought, feeling or emotion maintaining a proper perspective when it came to this temporary world we live in. The Word of God cut through her mind like a sword leaving only wisdom and faith in its wake. Amazing, outstanding, extraordinary, beautiful, brilliant – there are no words to describe the life this woman lived. Like many Christians I am so grateful God blessed this world with the soul we knew as Mother Teresa. And to know she was only human makes this simple country girl believe there is hope for me yet.