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.
— Mother Teresa to the Rev. Michael Van Der Peet, September 1979
There are some published and unpublished letters written by Mother Teresa that reveal a woman who lived with spiritual pain. She uses words like dryness, darkness, loneliness and torture. She compares her experience to hell and struggles with doubt.
Last year I visited the Home for the Destitute and Dying and the orphanage that Mother Teresa established. In these places I saw the faces of those that suffer from the pain of loneliness, despair and abandonment. The orphanage was packed out with children that had been left either by parents who could not care for them or parents that had died. Though these places were clean and filled with wonderful workers and volunteers, there was a sadness and emptiness that traveled to the pit of my stomach as I looked into the eyes of those living in these surroundings.
Mother Teresa, in all her humanness, had the right to feel the dryness, the darkness and loneliness that comes from ministering to the poor. She never wanted these letters published that described the pain she felt while in this ministry. I personally am glad they were published and somehow it brings me comfort to know she felt burnt out at times.
Stephen and I have spent 6 years at a church for the poor in our community. Though we can not claim our ministry to even come close to the work of Mother Teresa, I have found working amongst the poor including drug addicts, ex-cons and “the street” has its dry and lonely moments. I think anyone trying to help those that are despaired understands. Missionaries, aid workers, homeless shelter managers, youth workers (I am serious), prison guards, trauma nurses and doctors, counselors, pastors, parole officers, the list goes on. I guess what I am trying to say is its ok to feel dryness, darkness and lonely when you are working with the poverty of humanness. Actually, we should expect it.
So, what do we do when we feel this way? I know one thing about myself and that is I ain’t no Mother Teresa. She started her street ministry in Calcutta in 1948 all by herself. Faithfully, she served day in and day out. She loved the unlovable and she got her hands dirty. Until the day she died in 1997, she served. Is this what God expects from us all? How do we reconcile the feeling of dryness, darkness and loneliness with the verse Matthew 11:30: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
My opinion: I do believe there are times we need a rest, take a break, go to the wilderness and recharge the batteries. We need others to encourage our souls and fill up our tanks. I do believe we have to protect our heart from the depletion of all creativity and ability to serve. I think its ok we are not like Mother Teresa and I believe God continues to love us anyway.
Specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy
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