Scott Hodge

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Atheistic Confession or Authentic Faith?

Aug 25, 2007
26 Comments

“Where is my faith? Even deep down there is nothing but emptiness and darkness. If there be a God — please forgive me.”

“I am told God lives in me — and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.  I want God with all the power of my soul — and yet between us there is terrible separation.”

Are these the types of questions posed by a faithless atheist or by an authentic follower?

Believe it or not, they are the words of Mother Teresa written to a spiritual “confidant” several years
ago that have recently made their way into the public’s eye via a soon to be released book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light

It’s been interesting watching a few news outlets report on these and a handful of other comments madeZz6b7b4a6b_3
by Mother Teresa throughout her lifetime – statements that, on the surface, seem to some to be extremely contrary to what her life was supposedly all about. 

But I really have to wonder…  Are these types of questions or feelings truly a sign that someone like Mother Teresa was “spiritually bankrupt" or could they be even clearer evidence that this was a woman whose faith was closer to her heart than any of us can even begin to imagine?

Here’s a couple more quotes:

“What do I labor for? If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true.”

“I feel just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing.”

I guess it really all comes down to perspective.  Because when I read these words, I don’t see a faithless, spiritually bankrupt woman.  Instead, I see a woman who stands in a long line of deeply spiritual heroes who, like everyone, had moments of doubts and questions about their faith – yet who knew deep in their hearts that God existed and was just as real as anything else they knew to be true.

I also see a woman who was forced to stare the devil himself in the face every day of her life through the evil, pain, and suffering she had committed her life to relieving.  And think about it…  How can a person see that kind of hurt and pain every day of their life and NOT have moments of doubt or confusion? 

I don’t even see a glimmer of the kind of evil that Mother Teresa saw in her life and yet there are times when I find myself swimming through doubts or disbelief.  Does that make me spiritually bankrupt?  Or perhaps not as qualified to be a “spiritual” leader? 

I hope not. 

Because if it does, than we might as well throw out half of the Bible that’s filled with the stories, accounts and writings of deeply spiritual people who also struggled with their faith from time to time. 

Like David.

a.k.a. the "man after God’s own heart.” 

I say to God my Rock, "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?" My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, "Where is your God?" (Psalms 42:9-10)

My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me (Psalms 55:4-5).

Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression? We are brought down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground (Ps. 44:24-25).

As a follower of Jesus who still often times considers himself a spiritual seeker, I am thankful that there is room to ask questions and even at times, doubt; because on the other side of it all is an even deeper faith in a God who can handle my doubts and questions – even if others can’t.

God bless Mother Teresa for her honest and authentic faith.  May we all live it.


26 Responses to “Atheistic Confession or Authentic Faith?”

  1. emma says:

    I remember the first time I came across some of these from Momma T, and the relief I felt… I’m looking forward to reading this book!

  2. David says:

    Seeing this makes me feel so much better in my faith. Not that I am as great as her but I have this battle in my head at times too. It is a struggle that I’ve dealt with for most of my life.

  3. Daniel D says:

    Wow Scott! This is by far one of your deepest and most insightful post. I love it. Thanks for sharing and stimulating the conversation!

  4. mothert

    Scott Hodge is a pastor I came across earlier in the year. The man is honest and doing amazing things for God at his church in IL. Scott, if youre even in central PA, Id love to have lunch with you. Ill even pay.
    This post from him…

  5. This is exactly the kind of authentic transparency lacking among many pastoral leaders. Thanks, Scott, for being so real. Can I have a job?

  6. ted says:

    yea scott, great post… :-)

  7. I am really looking forward to reading this book… I am definintely fascinated by the life of Mother Teresa… Great post Scott!

  8. Bill says:

    I believe that Mother Theresa was disappointed at times; however, I will never be convinced that she -of all people- was an atheist.

  9. aynteasy says:

    our free will is the curse and the cure that haunts and shapes
    our faith , what a struggle when in a place such as mother Tereasa
    still i look to see the autenticity of these statements
    claimed to be from her and if she ever intended for them to be public, did someone break a confidence with her , that would be such an evil deed , pray for her

  10. steve mcmahon says:

    I think Mother Teresa’s missing miracle will be the letter’s of her doubt’s. Million’s of beleiver,s will come to realize it’s easy to beleive if you have no doubt’s and expect big reward,s in return. It is when your deed’s are from your heart, expecting nothing in return,even when doubt’s about your faith haunt you, that you are truly a Saint. God Bless You Mother Teresa I love you.

  11. Flaviu says:

    Scott-
    i’m working on the subject of ‘when God goes dark’ for next sunday. we all have moments like those, Mother Teresa was just honest about it. and like you said, the people God used most had the same struggles with God.
    life isn’t always pink … yet God is always God, there, in the middle of your doubt, He is there.
    thanks for being real!

  12. Julie says:

    Just found your blog, and I think I’ve found a kindred spirit. I just happen to be reading a book on Mother Teresa (one of my heros) and this makes me love her even more. Can’t wait to read this new book.

  13. Scott, Great post! Thanks for sharing this.

  14. Skyler says:

    I couldn’t agree more. It seems like we are always wanting the Mountain top experiences with God, when in fact most of our lives are lived in the valley…after all, that is where those who do not yet know Christ are. Perhaps God gives us the mountain tops to get us through and re-charge us for the real paces of life!

  15. Joni says:

    Well said. Its too bad that Mother Teresa’s confidant didn’t honor her wishes by keeping those private though. They are obviously very intimate and personal and I have a feeling she foresaw the controversy would they to become public. And more than the controversy, perhaps she would not have liked attention drawn to her rather than to God and his work.

  16. T.J. says:

    I’m just shocked that a woman who did so many “good works” was at a loss in her faith…maybe the works trip should be set aside until you know that you know that you know you have been born again…then you can offer HOPE IN CHRIST….salvation thru HIM ALONE…and good works that GLORIFY THE FATHER…..
    wanna hear well done good and faithful servant

  17. Todd And says:

    I discussed this with a friend on Sunday then heard an interview with the Time reporter on Monday. I think the book, media coverage and corresponding conversations will help a lot of people. The idea being that those who search are doing so because deep within they believe there is something to be sought. Thanks for a great post and keep up the awesome work!

  18. zach harrod says:

    Thanks for the post, I whole heartedly agree with your thoughts. About 3 years after I became a Christian in College I was preaching at a youth group and watched God do some cool things, the next morning I woke up and it was like someone had flipped a switch and doubt seemed to close in like a deep fog. I thought, “Am I not a Christian? Is all this just a hug lie?” I clung to verses like Mark 9:24, where the father of this demon possessed boy declares, “I believe; help my unbelief!” As God took me through this desert season of uncertainty and doubt I felt burned by the way leaders in the local para-church and local church handled doubt. We need not run from it, but see it as an opportunity to draw closer to our Lord who draws close to the the doubting! Thanks for the post!

  19. Lizzie says:

    It is definitely comforting to see that people we consider great in their faith still doubt. Not that I want to see them doubt, or want to doubt myself, but knowing that they do and still make it through, like you said even stronger, it’s definitely something to hang on to.

  20. another T.J. says:

    sadly this is where catholicism leads to…… doubts…doubts and more doubts…..you must be born again, by the SPirit…then you KNow that you KNow that you KNOW Jesus is your Lord, living in you and leading you. She did many good works.,…..was she born again?

  21. Ted says:

    t.j.:
    i appreciate your enthusiasm to point out the “typical” born again path… while your definitive one-sided mantra about catholicism, etc… seems logical coming from an evangelical trite unrealistic paradigm…
    t.j…lets take yourself for example, are you suggesting that because you are “born again” that you haven’t struggled with some form of doubt? now, if you answer “no”, then you are sorely mistaken (or the exception). the scriptures are riddled with examples of those who were followers of christ who were, at times, “doubt-stricken.”
    following jesus isn’t some “static” one-time prayer, where you are rid of any future doubts or fears. it isn’t a magic prayer, magic walk down the aisle, magic “whatever”…
    i would be careful to strike a quick judgment on someone, with christian ease and unrealistic faith in christ.
    as it pertains to me and my relationship with christ…i know i am loved by god…do i have doubts? sure. is following god easy? no, sometimes it is hard..but…i know he is good.

  22. j-mang says:

    T.J.,
    I find it amazing that someone, like yourself, could look down upon a great leader of our faith–like Mother Teresa–for expressing doubt. For it is quite possibly the very thing that defines our faith.
    A lack of it would render faith unnecessary. And, it is doubt that makes an inch of faith at the bottom of a well more powerful than a mountain of faith sitting on a rooftop.
    Frederick Buechner speaks about doubt with eloquence: “Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God, if you don’t have any doubts you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving” (Wishful Thinking)
    If a lack of doubt is what makes me a Christian, then I guess I’m left out of the club. Because no matter what I do, I can’t help but feel the same doubt David so honestly writes about in Psalms or Solomon (or Qoheleth) so painfully in Ecclesiastes.

  23. Ted says:

    Well said Justin!

  24. Greg Johnson says:

    Right on Scott. I can associate with Mother Teresa’s feelings at times in my life and ministry. Thank God for transparent and authentic Christ followers.
    Know that you are loved,
    gaj

  25. Kevin says:

    The words Mother Teresa’s spoke can be taken two ways. They could be words spoken as she looked over the lost and forgotten, or they could be words coming from a heart that really did not know God on a personal level. The bible is very clear about confessing Jesus as Lord and having a relationship with God. John 17:3 tells us that eternal life is knowing God and his son Jesus Christ.
    Reading Mother Teresa’s words caused a deep ache in my heart. How horrible would it be to serve God your entire life based on your Good works only to discover on your death bed, that it was all for naught. This is a very serious issue and should cause us all to reflect about our relationship with God. Do we think our works please God or do we realize that our faith in Christ makes us acceptable and in him we will produce good works? Being in him gives you a heart full of assurance. Yes doubts come, but deep inside there is a peace and a knowing all is well. Look at Paul and Silas in prison.
    No one will ever know what she really meant when she expressed these thoughts, but Matt 5: 16 tell us that our Good works should point people to God. However the good works do not earn you points with God. Big difference! Mother Teresa did great things, but I do not know her or if she did or did not confess Jesus as Lord.
    Having grown up in a Catholic home, like it or not, it was pounded into our heads by the church that your works were the key to heaven. So many people are serving God thinking that there good works will earn them a way into heaven. The key is knowing God has provided salvation for all men based on believing the work Christ Accomplished on the cross. Its believing his work was enough and accepting it by faith. The issue is we are all in Adam when we are born into this earth. (Read Romans chapter 5) No matter how many good works we do, if you die in Adam, you will spend eternity in hell. That is why the born again message is crucial and must be preached. It is a message of freedom, and knowing the truth will enable you to produce good works from a heart changed by God.
    Many people today are saying God is love and no matter what you do, he loves you and heaven will be your home. This is not true. Yes God is Love, but hell is filled with people God loves, but they refused to recieve Christ as Lord. Many of them did good deeds, but the issue is not works, but they were in Adam. This is why the gospel message is so important. Unless a man is born again, he will in know way see the kingdom of God. I am 52 years old and I am seeing the message of Christ and him crucified being diluted and many, many people are being deceived. They think their good works will earn them a ticket to heaven and that a loving God would not let them perish. Isa 64: 6 tells us our righteousnesses are like filthy rags. That means, our good works, trying to earn favor with God come short when compared to the work of Christ. So, we must ask ourselves. When we stand before God, do you want to be found in Adam and presenting your good works to God, or do you want to stand before God in Christ and him crucified??
    I am not trying to knock anyone. I know many born again Catholics, but reading Mother Teresa’s words caused a deep agony in my heart. I hope she was born again. We all have doubts at times, like othes said, doubting does not disqualify you from knowing God. Look at Thomas. He just wanted to know the truth. Doubting does not make you faithless, but knowing Christ in times of doubt brings peace.
    Kevin Egly

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