Friday, August 31, 2007

Our Secret Doubts

I'm sure that millions of people will find it fascinating to hear of the book being released that describes the doubts that plagued a spiritual hero to many -- Mother Teresa. This excerpt from the Christian Science Monitor expresses my reaction to this news:

The book, "Come Be My Light," puts together in one place her writings about her private, inner conflict which were penned in letters to her confessors and superiors.

The writings, edited by Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, a proponent for her sainthood, show not only a religious leader tormented by doubt, but pained by it for almost 50 years. The struggle lasted right up until her passing a decade ago.

"Where is my Faith – even deep down right in there is nothing but emptiness & darkness...," she wrote in an undated address to Jesus, at the suggestion of one of her confessors.

From all walks of life, and at all levels, people struggle with doubt – religious and otherwise – on a daily basis: youngsters facing their first day of kindergarten; alcoholics struggling to recover; presidents with world-shaping decisions to make.

Abraham Lincoln was filled with self-doubt, and yet overcame it to lead the country through the Civil War. Martin Luther King Jr. often talked about his doubts – about his ability or willingness to commit to and sustain the civil-rights movement, and his fear of assassination.

It's tempting to think of great moral leaders as unshakable warriors, but that is so rarely true. And it's tempting to think that their courage and good deeds are not possible for the general population to achieve.

But the case of Mother Teresa should make her works feel more accessible to people. If "the saint of the gutters" was tormented by personal failings, then those who feel less saintly can also commit to acts of charity. (From “The Doubting Mother Teresa,” Yahoo News, August 30. 2007)

Let's be honest here -- aren't we reluctant to let others know of our doubts? Especially if we are placed in a position of leadership. We want to appear strong, trusting God for every challenge that comes our way. Having an unwavering confidence in Jesus and our relationship with Him. I have a feeling, though, that many of us have our moments of doubt. I certainly have.

For many years as a Christian I viewed prayer and confession as a private matter. I wasted so many years hiding my struggles from other believer. Two things held me back from asking from admitting these battles with doubt:

1. My pride. I wanted to appear strong in the Lord in front of other believers, especially those who seemed to struggle a lot.

1. My ignorance of how other Christians were struggling with some of the same things as I was – but none of us were communicating and therefore we were all attempting to handle our problems on our own.

I recall a time many years ago when I was in a dorm room at Harding University, studying for the ministry. I had doubts about my faith and questions that I was afraid to ask my professors. And I was becoming increasingly frustrated with the legalism I witnessed in the church. But I didn’t know who to talk to.

When I shared some of these struggles with Susan, who was living in Dallas at the time, she began sending me some tapes by a preacher named Lynn Anderson. Of course, many of us who have any awareness of the Highland Church knew that he preached here for 19 years. And he was one of the few ministers of the gospel who expressed publicly his struggles. And people love him for it -- probably because he expressed some of the same things they battled, but were afraid to admit.

I decided to write Lynn a letter and open my heart to him. And he wrote back the most encouraging letter, empathizing with me. What a blessing he was to me.

Mother Teresa's confession don't shock me, though they do sadden me that she suffered so much. But her journals do remind me that all of us believers in Jesus have feet of clay -- which often may include periods of doubt.

How do you handle your times of doubt? Do you have a special friend with whom you can tell your secrets, including your doubts?



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