A recent Time article entitled “Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith,” reported the apparent double life led by the Nobel Peace Prize winner:
A new, innocuously titled book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (Doubleday), consisting primarily of correspondence between Teresa and her confessors and superiors over a period of 66 years, provides the spiritual counterpoint to a life known mostly through its works. The letters, many of them preserved against her wishes (she had requested that they be destroyed but was overruled by her church), reveal that for the last nearly half-century of her life she felt no presence of God whatsoever — or, as the book’s compiler and editor, the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, writes, “neither in her heart or in the eucharist.”
That absence seems to have started at almost precisely the time she began tending the poor and dying in Calcutta, and — except for a five-week break in 1959 — never abated. Although perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain. In more than 40 communications, many of which have never before been published, she bemoans the “dryness,” “darkness,” “loneliness” and “torture” she is undergoing. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God. She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. “The smile,” she writes, is “a mask” or “a cloak that covers everything.” Similarly, she wonders whether she is engaged in verbal deception. “I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God — tender, personal love,” she remarks to an adviser. “If you were [there], you would have said, ‘What hypocrisy.'”
Yes, hypocrisy is exactly what it should be called. But the really sad and truly tragic thing about this revelation isn’t that it showed the hypocrisy of Teresa. The really pitiful reality that it shows is what happens to a person who trusts in good works rather than in the grace of God for salvation. Her horrible battle should remind us all that no amount of “good works,” not even from the most renowned doer of good works in modern times, can bring assurance of salvation. The only thing that can bring assurance of salvation is trust in the work of Christ alone by the grace of God alone.
Ephesians 2:8-10 “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (NKJ)
Of course, only God can know Teresa’s heart, but if her surviving letters — the ones she tried to have destroyed — are any indication, the poor woman never had the kind of assurance that the Scriptures say can be had by those who have a genuine faith in Christ.