“Dark Faith”

By: Gabriela Yareliz

I read a brilliant article about Mother Teresa and her “spiritual darkness,” in The Week . The article was called, “Mother Teresa sometimes didn’t believe in God. That makes her an example of faith.” Provocative.

Mother Teresa recently became a “Saint.” I remember after reading her journal in high school, how impacted I was by some of the experiences she recounts. I couldn’t believe she still hadn’t met the criteria for what the Catholic Church deems as sainthood. Wasn’t her life enough of a miracle?

The article I read mentioned the fact that some of her writings are at times edited to not include her moments of spiritual darkness, or what some would call disbelief, in efforts to not discourage the readers.

The article points out, and I agree wholeheartedly, that faith isn’t having it all together. Faith is a journey, that very much so includes the moments when you are angry at God or questioning God.

You see, we need truth, the article states. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry is right when he wrote:

“She showed us how to persevere, in the dark night, in spite of everything, even one’s demons. That is not lack of faith, that is true faith. May we all have her faith. Yes, even dark faith, even the pain and abandonment of the Cross.”

Yes. That is true faith. Hanging in there, and groping your way out of a long, dark night.

At one point in high school, while I was reading a book of quotations of Mother Teresa on the school bus rides (I always admired her so much and sort of found comfort in her solitude and reflection), I was also reading through the book of Psalms by King David. I had a little green pocket New Testament, that included Psalms and Proverbs. This was my bus reading material.

I remember that I sometimes thought King David had serious issues. One day he was dancing, and the next day, he was sobbing to God because someone was out to kill him (a totally legitimate reason to cry out to God, I admit). It hasn’t been until years later, after weathering a few dark nights of my own, that I better understand King David’s joy and anguish.

I am reminded that God never edited people’s lives in the Bible. King David’s sobs and adultery are there; Moses murdering the Egyptian and his fear of speaking before Pharaoh is there; Abraham’s doubt in the dark night after being promised that his descendants would be innumerable like the stars is there; Jacob’s lies and his tormenting love story are there; Samson’s weakness for women is there; Solomon’s derailment is there; Jeremiah’s weeping is there; Joseph in prison for doing what was right is there.

You see, I haven’t posted in a while. I thought of so many things that are on my mind. We could talk about how bankers get to do their work in nice clothes, with a bowl of lollipops in front of them all day; the election circus; how to transition your summer wardrobe into fall (if I see this headline one more time– I will vomit); how matte lipsticks dry out your lips; how men’s razors are better than women’s razors; how amazing love is– but that’s not what is really on my mind, tonight. This is on my mind; this concept of “dark faith.”

I am thinking about those who surround me. Each person has a story. Many of us have been demoralized in life. Life has “swept the floor” with us, so to speak. We feel broken, more often than not, and weary. Sometimes, it’s not even the fact that we are angry at God or questioning. Sometimes, we are just so unmistakeably exhausted that it’s like we hold our hands up in the air, and we don’t say a word. There is nothing more to say. We grope our way around the corners of life, hoping we won’t stub our toe or experience even more pain. We harden ourselves, sometimes. We hide. Sometimes, we question. Sometimes, we aren’t sure we believe all that we know has been proven true.

We find ourselves in the dark, with a heart, heavy, but filled with divine promise, as Abraham did. And that’s okay. This is what I want to say. It’s okay. Because the “Heroes of Faith” in scripture are so much more than the names listed in Hebrews 11. It’s the people sprinkled throughout the whole book. It’s you and me. It’s the Bible characters who lied, cheated, killed, doubted, and chose wrong. It’s the transformation of each of those lives. It’s the whole journey. The whole story. Light shines in darkness, and the love of God has shined into our darkness. The darkness is there. The darkness is real. Oh is it real. Our hurts, our brokenness, the betrayals we experience, the insecurities we are left with, the abandonment we have faced– it’s all real. And we are left groping. It’s part of our journey. Our unedited journey. It’s truth. And the truth will set us free.

Mother Teresa faced the ugliness of humanity with compassion. She often faced her own demons and disbelief with confusion and frustration. That wasn’t the end. This is a journey. A journey where divine Love saves the day and light breaks forth like the noonday sun.

Night doesn’t last forever. It didn’t for Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and our nights won’t last forever, either. This darkness is important– it may be the turning point, what the story hinges on. So remember, no editing. 

This manuscript of a life needs to remain complete. Because that is faith. Faith is persevering through the whole journey. 

Published by Gabriela Yareliz

Gabriela is a writer, editor and attorney. She loves the art of storytelling, and she is based in NYC.

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