doubt & faith: living in the tension

thanks for the comments & for hanging in there on the last series of posts on doubt & faith.  we wrapped up our series 2 saturdays ago with dinner & a fun conversation together.  my friend john & i facilitated together (how many times can i say that i love that in the refuge community we get to hear from so many different voices?)

john shared one of those optical illusion pictures that so many of us have seen–the one that had a face if you looked from one side and an eskimo going into an igloo if you saw it from another.  of course, in any group you get a myriad of responses–those who saw one or the other right away, a few that saw both, people helping others try to see what they couldn’t see on their own, others wondering why they could only see one and not the other.

i think it’s that way with faith, too.  people can see the same picture and view it completely differently. to one, it means one thing and to another it means something quite different.  this is readily apparent in our community where we have a wide range of theological perspectives in addition to about every other way we can be diverse.  some are definitely on the more conservative side and others would say they are deconstructing all they once believed.   what this means in community is that for some, when the Bible is read, it feeds their soul.  for others, it can trigger all kinds of other weird feelings from past experiences.  for others, “worship” fills a deep soul longing while for others the thought of reading words from a screen and singing them toward the front is just not very satisfying.  for some, God feels real, close, intimate, kind, good while for others God is distant and far-from-being-a-friend-at-the-moment.  oh, it is tricky to all live together in community!  but what i love about it is it reminds us how important it is to live in the tension.

to respect that everyone might not see what we see, but it doesn’t make us right and them wrong.  or us wrong and them right.  they just both “are.” part of loving each other well is letting each other be where we are at and not trying to convince the other to “see what we see.”  the tension of faith and doubt is like that, too.  they aren’t necessarily “bad” or “good.”   i think we need to shake the idea that faith & doubt are on some kind of scale where if you tip toward too much doubt, you’re toast and if you stay on the faith side somehow you’re okay.  they can live together.  they do live together.  and for some of us, they must live together.

i have faith.  i have doubt.   some days i have more faith.  other days i have more doubt.  and i think that’s just real life for most of us.  some questions worth asking are:  can i live in the tension of what others believe or doubt? and for many on the journey of making some shifts in faith & life,  can i live in the tension of what i believe or doubt?

i think an improvement “the church” will hopefully continue to make is to better respect that the presence of doubt is not the absence of faith.  to help people learn to live in the tension.  to affirm that real people have a wide range of feelings & emotions & responses that shift and change over time and a beautiful gift that christian community can give to each other is the space to be wherever they are and trust that God is at work and doesn’t always need our two cents.

i love being part of a group of lovely friends where i can still believe and doubt at the same time.

here’s the question john asked everyone to process at their tables:

  • “even though i still believe __________________, i often doubt that ________________.” how would you finish that sentence?

then, because sometimes it is nice to remember that despite all the shifts, despite all the questions, despite all the unknowns, despite all the doubts, that we still have something to hold on to, we closed our series with this parting thought, a chance to hear from everyone who was present that night.  we stood together & asked everyone to finish this sentence with 2-3 words max:

  • “despite my doubt, i still believe _____________”

mine feels simple today “despite my doubt, i still believe that God mysteriously brings beauty into the ugliest of places.”

if you are willing, i‘d love to hear some of yours.  they always infuse me with hope, for me, for us, for the world. thank you for being part of this crazy journey i am on.  it’s wild & scary but every day i realize even more clearly how not alone i am in the tension of faith & doubt.

so what’s yours, despite your doubt, what do you still believe?

* * * * *

ps: if you’re just reading, the previous posts in this series are–

next week i have another addition to the out of the darkness interview seriesnever underestimate the damage of spiritual abuse

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • despite my doubts I still believe that God is good, that he loves each and every person, that he cares deeply about the world we live in and because I still believe those things I still believe that there is hope

  • “a beautiful gift that christian community can give to each other is the space to be wherever they are and trust that God is at work and doesn’t always need our two cents.”

    Kathy, I love that! For me, part of saying “yes” to Jesus’ offer of a relationship means I must believe His statement that no one comes to the Father except through Him. Yet the flip side of that coin is scary, because if we haven’t come to trust Him well enough to believe He knows what He’s doing and trust that He has everything under control, without our input/assistance/advice everyone we think doesn’t know Him is screwed.

    So, when others in the family get in my face, trying to convince me theirs is the only way to see/do things, I choose to believe they’re doing so from a heart of love (thinking either I won’t be blessed or, worst case scenario, am doomed), not from a need to be right. And each time I pray, when those inevitable in-your-face conversations are mine, they will be seasoned with salt.

    “despite my doubt–‘Oh no! Something awful will happen if I don’t say something!’–i still believe God understands my heart (and theirs), and He knows our two cents are offered in love.”

    All of Heaven’s best,

  • Despite my doubt I still believe God wants to love the world through His people.

  • O my lovely friend how do you know my thoughts? LOL… I LOVE THIS PART KATHY!! Specially the bit AT we are……….

    to respect that everyone might not see what we see, but it doesn’t make us right and them wrong. or us wrong and them right. they just both “are.” part of loving each other well is letting each other be where we are at and not trying to convince the other to “see what we see.”

    Many times again i was left with many feelings about God and doubts….I was talking with someone the other day also about this, we meet people were they are AT with love and grace!! And not force our stuff on them, they will not see it manytimes anyway!! I DIDN’T lol…… Everytime that happend my heart closed down. I thought why? Why is no-one listening to me? ( some people do now) That’s why Kathy this encouraged me again and it builded me up and seeing that i am not crazy!! YOu rock!!!

    But even so “despite my doubt, i still believe that God is still believing in me and would never leave me even though i many times mess up!!! And believe me, i do!!

    LOVE yeaha KathyX

  • i love it!!! thank you for sharing this. i’ve been busy and not read blogs these past few weeks, so i’ll have to catch up on here sometime soon! 🙂 also, we are having our night of beauty at Zoe’s tomorrow night. so excited and nervous!!! it will be great, though. 🙂 i’m so thankful for you and the refuge…y’all are a blessing and inspiration to me!!

    despite my doubt, i still believe that God gives beauty for ashes.

  • liz – beautiful, thanks for sharing

    rachel – thanks, too. my all-time favorite word is “hope”

    katherine – thanks for sharing

    margret – i am glad you connected with these thoughts 🙂 it is hard not to put in our two cents or to listen to others putting in theirs unsolicited, but i am indeed glad that grace fills in the cracks.

    minnow – yep, me, too. thanks for the link love, i always appreciate your thoughtful challenging posts. keep speaking it!

    els – oh how i love you & your heart. thanks for your continued encouragement and sharing of what God is doing in and through you…

    davida – thats my #1 alltime favorite passage in scripture. yes, i believe that still too…looking forward to hearing how beauty night went.

  • the “More” we seek

    There is a place
    where Church meets World
    and the young greet the old

    And our problem is

    Where we should be driven by compassion
    we are lethargic with complacency
    Where we should be united as one with our differences
    that which should draw us to the same
    we have instead outlined our territory and put up a barbed fence

    How can we expect others to see Love
    if we use
    as a weapon

    We have aligned ourselves to stereotype
    building barriers across generations
    Seeking not more of the Lord
    but more of ourselves in our wish to be outstanding

    We are not called to be the one but to follow The One
    We are the many, His chosen bride

    Like moonshine, with our hearts and eyes strong set to Jesus
    we will reflect the spotlessness by which He sees us

    Can we not push aside constraint
    and release our base assumptions

    Trade control for openness
    and rebellion for learning wisdom
    Bring balance to our character
    and unite our hearts because we share devotion

    Through our desperation join to walk as one
    because even in our differences
    the “More” we seek
    is God

  • Despite my doubt(sssssss…) – they are many:
    I still believe that God is faithful…He has never let me down. I falter. He never does.
    I also believe that I was created for joy (happiness, satisfaction, whatever-you-want-to-call-it).
    I also believe that God is most brightly visible when I expose my weakness.


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