After her death in 1997, one of Mother Teresa’s spiritual directors revealed letters in which she described a decades-long “dark night of the soul,” a period during which she felt that God had abandoned her. She even spoke of envying the poor people to whom she ministered because they seemed to possess a passion for God and a surety of God’s presence that she desired.
The psalmist in today’s passage is well-acquainted with the anguish that comes from God’s absence. The psalmist has recovered from a serious illness, one that almost cost his life. Before his illness, he felt confident of God’s presence. But at the height of his suffering, he too felt that God had abandoned him.
It is hard when we suffer from a serious illness or hardship. When we no longer feel God’s presence with us in our suffering, our distress can turn to despair. The pain of God’s silence is especially agonizing if it follows an experience of divine communion, a period when we have heard God’s voice or felt God’s presence in a palpable way. We can easily begin to doubt our faith. Are we deluding ourselves about the strength of our faith? Have we sinned and lost God’s favor? Will we ever feel close to God again?
The psalm offers no answer to these questions. But it does assure us that our doubts are a normal part of the journey of faith and provide a model of faithful discipleship in the midst of doubt. Even when God is silent, the psalmist refuses to be. He continues to praise God for the grace and favor that he knows God will manifest in his life. And so should we.

Gracious God, we thank you for being the one who not only welcomes our cries but who hears and responds to them. Bolster our faith in the midst of our suffering and doubt, so that we may continue to magnify your name. Amen.

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