Since her death, Mother Teresa’s doubts have come to light with the publication of some of her letters. For most of her missionary career, she felt that she could not hear God, which caused her to doubt her faith and even the existence of God. I scoured the web and magazines and anything else I could find about this subject not long after our fourth miscarriage because I felt like I couldn’t hear God, and I certainly didn’t trust my beliefs at that point. It felt like there might be hope for me if someone as “saintly” as Mother Teresa struggled, too. I remember reading an article about her doubts along with an interview of a priest who was trying to fast-track her sainthood; the priest thought that her doubts and God’s silence in her life were an indication of extreme piety. I remember thinking at that point in the article, “How strange.” How could God’s silence possibly indicate a close relationship with him? The priest never really answered my question, but Oswald Chambers did one morning while I was reading.
“Has God trusted you with a silence – a silence that is big with meaning? God’s silences are His answers. … God will give you the blessings you ask if you will not go any further without them; but His silence is the sign that He is bringing you into a marvelous understanding of Himself. Are you mourning before God because you have not had an audible response? You will find that God has trusted you in the most intimate way possible, with an absolute silence, not of despair, but of pleasure, because He saw that you could stand a bigger revelation.” (from My Utmost for His Highest, October 11)
I felt like I had spent years wandering in the desert, waiting for some word from God. It has only been in the last five or six months that I have finally felt that I am close to him again after almost three years of quiet. One of the most devastating things about losing the babies was losing the audible voice of God in my life. As long as I can remember, I have heard him speaking to my soul – sometimes with actual words, and sometimes with a feeling or knowledge, a wordless and resounding “Amen” to his “I Am.” To rather suddenly lose that voice made me doubt everything I thought I knew about God. To continue in silence made me doubt everything I knew about myself and examine every aspect of my life for some sin that must have caused the communication gap. And while there was certainly sin in my life, I wouldn’t say that there was any more or less than at any other point in my life; I could find nothing worthy of silence short of God finally giving up on me.
I would say that this is also the point at which traditional Bible studies and even church failed me; the general consensus that I heard from these places was, “Trust God” or “Find and eradicate the sin.” I would have made a great Puritan until about six months ago. I have a hard time escaping the kind of direct cause and effect thinking that the Puritans made famous when it comes to my own life. I am great at comforting other people and assuring them that whatever calamity they are facing is not the wrath of God because they didn’t read their Bible for a week. But in my own life? After the third miscarriage? Fourth miscarriage? Enduring the silence of God? I must have done something that I need to confess; there is some wrong that I must right before God will speak to me again. My linear thinking was wrong, and it was mostly evidence of my attempts to earn God’s love, to somehow make myself worthy of his grace instead of just accepting that it is an unearned, undeserved gift.
This is not to say that there are not consequences for sin; we all make mistakes for which we must atone. The only perfect person who ever lived gave himself as a sacrifice so that we could live with grace. A very dear friend reminded me last year that when we face problems and tragedies in life, it is because God has deemed us worthy to endure them. He has entrusted us with the trial, so that we may get through it and find him on the other side of it. He has entrusted us with his silence. While I in my humanity prefer that God find another way to prove to ourselves what kind of strength and faith we possess, he has chosen endurance. So if you, too are facing some trial (and if you are breathing, you very likely are), repeat after me: I am worthy of this trial, I am worthy of God’s silence, and I will find him on the other side – all and only because he loves me.