Mother Teresa, the Albanian Catholic sister celebrated for her lifetime of service to the poorest of the poor in India, is an icon in Western culture. She represents the deepest level of selflessness and charity. The Catholic Church beatified her in 1997, and expects to canonize her as a saint. If her service to humanity in the name of Christ is considered exemplary, perhaps her spirituality may be expected to be the model for Christians, as well.
Yet in a personal letter to a spiritual confidant written in 1979, she confessed, “Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.” Teresa had apparently written 40 letters over a period of more than six decades to mentors, confessors, and confidants concerning her ministry and her spiritual struggles. These letters reveal that not long after she began her ministry to Calcutta’s poorest inhabitants, her sense of the presence of God disappeared from her soul, returned only for a short period in 1959, then left her again till her death in 1997.
Teresa’s experience of spiritual anguish, though extreme, illustrates the human predicament of seeking to cultivate a relationship with a God who is transcendent, invisible, and hidden. A theological assessment of her experience can legitimately question the genuineness of her salvation, given the doctrinal problems found in the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church relative to justification by faith. If she never truly trusted in Christ’s finished work alone on her behalf, then she never “passed out of death into life” (I John 3:14), and never was in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9). If she was never justified by faith (versus works), she would not know “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1). The Scriptures do not teach that such a person should have any expectation of a sense of the presence of God in their life. Can we say with certainty that this is the case with Teresa? Only God knows.
One attempt at a psychological assessment was offered by Dr. Richard Gottlieb, a teacher at the New York Psychoanalytic Society & Institute. Gottlieb raised a theory suggesting her sense of abandonment was self-inflicted. “Psychologists have long recognized that people of a certain personality type are conflicted about their high achievement and find ways to punish themselves.” Can we say with certainty that this is the case with Teresa? Only God knows.
Rev. James Martin, an editor at the Jesuit magazine America, offers quite another perspective. He commented that Teresa’s letters “may be remembered as just as important as her ministry to the poor. It would be a ministry to people who had experienced some doubt, some absence of God in their lives. And you know who that is? Everybody. Atheists, doubters, seekers, believers, everyone.”
It would be a worthwhile study to read her letters in total and attempt to discern how Teresa responded to the hiddenness of God in her life from a biblical standpoint. She clearly experienced great doubt and sorrow in her life, yet pressed on faithfully in her service to Christ despite any sense of his presence in her soul. Those of us who have struggled with divine hiddenness may learn a powerful lesson from her.
 David Van Biema “Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith.” http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1655720-1,00.html
 Teresa’s letters have been published in “Come Be My Light,” published by Doubleday Press, 2007. Ed. by Brian Kolodiejchuk.
 David Van Biema “Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith.”