When You Don’t Feel God’s Presence

Through her work with the poorest of the poor, St. Teresa of Calcutta became a well-known name across the world. People saw her as humble, joyful, sacrificing, and faithful. All of these are true, but it was only after her death that another side of her spiritual life was revealed.

“Hidden from everybody, even from those who are closest to her, really known only to her spiritual director was that for over 50 years she had gone through the dark night of the soul. She had this feeling, during all her incredible missionary activities in which the world saw only this woman full of joy, interiorly she had this experience of being separated from God, even rejected by him even though she kept longing for his love and she called this experience the darkness,” explained Cale Clarke, host of The Cale Clarke Show.

How did people feel when they found out about this “dark night of the soul” that Mother Teresa experienced? “This was such a in some ways, you know, shocking development for people to realize this. But at the same time I think it gave a lot of encouragement to others who been going through something similar to this,” explained Cale.

St. Teresa wrote this to her spiritual director in 1957:

“In the darkness, Lord my God, who am I that you should forsake me? The child of your love and now become as the most hated one. The one you have thrown away is unwanted, unloved. I call, I cling, I want, and there is no one to answer. Where I try to raise my thoughts to heaven there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul. Love, the word love it brings nothing. 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.”

Have you ever felt abandoned by God? Have you ever longed for his presence and not received any consolation that he was there, guiding you and listening to your pleas? If you’ve wrestled with pain, doubt, emptiness, loneliness in your spiritual life, you are not alone. St. Teresa wrote this of the ache that she felt for decades of her life:

“I did not know that love could make one suffer so much. A pain human, but caused by the divine. The more I want him, the less I am wanted. I want to love him as he has not been loved and yet, there is that separation, that terrible emptiness, that feeling of absence of God. They say people in hell suffer eternal pain because of the loss of God. In my soul, I feel just this terrible pain of loss. Of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing. That terrible longing just keeps growing and I feel as if something will break in me one day. Heaven from every side is closed. I feel like refusing God. Pray for me that I may not turn a Judas to Jesus in this painful darkness.”

Despite the pain and isolation she experienced, Mother Teresa continued to do God’s work in the world and let Christ work through her. She never abandoned her faith.

Cale calls her writing “incredible spiritual honesty”. She accepted her suffering as a means of bringing others to Christ. She united her suffering with Jesus’ pain on the cross as he bore the sins of the world.

What an incredible witness of love, charity, trust, and faith. St. Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!

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Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.