“ But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”
-- 2 Corinthians 4:7-10
A.W. Tozer, wrote that before God can bless a man greatly he must hurt him deeply. It was his perspective from scripture that personal pain seemed to be part of God’s curriculum for anyone He blessed greatly and that our sufferings should be understood in this light. Since early adulthood the person we know as Mother Teresa had wanted to be a missionary to Calcutta. For many years she ran a Christian school for girls and found it to be a very fruitful ministry in terms of building the gospel into the lives of next generation leaders. In 1946, Teresa went on her annual spiritual retreat and there she says the Lord gave her a call within a call. On that retreat the Lord told her that He was pained by the neglect of the poor and the ignorance among the poor of his love and truth. Then He asked Teresa to go with Him to the poorest of the poor and be His light. From 1948 until 1997, Mother Teresa worked tirelessly in the slums of Calcutta ministering to the poorest of the poor. Her work eventually expanded around the world with the help of many other sisters and lay volunteers. She was also given the Nobel Peace prize and many other significant honors for her great humanitarian work. But it wasn’t until after she died that her greatest secret was revealed. Not even her closest friends knew that her interior life was marked with the deepest pain and sorrow of feeling she was rejected by God. In personal writings that became public several years later, she expressed a longing for the feeling of Christ’s love, but instead found a feeling of being abandoned and forgotten by God. She called this her inner darkness and it began when she consecrated herself to the Lord’s call within a call and remained with her until her last breath. When Christ called her to go and love the poor, he also gave her the feelings of those she served on His behalf. Teresa was able to fully comprehend the desolation and forgotteness that goes with being so poor because that is what she received in her heart. Many Christians have experienced a “dark night of the soul”. What is unusual is that for Teresa it was permanent, not a passing phase. Though Teresa lived with this great spiritual pain, without fail she rose at 4:30 am every day to seek God’s face and strength in prayer. God did strengthen her and blessed her labors and crowned them with many accolades in this life, but in withholding a sense of His presence in Teresa’s life there was a purification of her motives and a certainty that what was achieved was through God’s strength alone and not by human charisma and effort. Whatever we may think today, Teresa considered her abandonment by God her most shameful secret, but eventually she learned it aided in her gifting and calling from God.