faith and doubt: living with what is

faith and doubt

Graphic design by Ryan Bond

As a child I wanted to know what would happen next. I can still hear myself asking, “What are we doing today?” And, “Are we there yet?!” I wanted to be certain about how the world worked. I loved science and research. I wanted to be able to test the hypothesis, form the theory, and know the correct, 100% right, answer. I wanted to define right and wrong, to be perfect and not to fail or fall short. I defined faith as a checklist of facts and unerring understanding.

I found comfort in faith that knew the answers. But life gradually undermined my ability to hold onto certainty, clarity, and knowing. From our shared and my individual “ground zeros,” devastation, despair, and loss dropped like stones in a pond, spreading out in concentric circles.  The questions consumed me: Where was God? Why was God silent in the face of incomprehensible suffering and pain and loss? Is there a God? I was overwhelmed by the silence of God, uncertainty, and the ambiguity of not knowing. Faith vanished. Questions and doubt filled the void.

I asked, “How I could live with what is?” What I thought was true about faith did not stand the tests of my experience. I could no longer pretend that I understood faith. But to live without faith felt like disconnecting from meaning and a valuable perspective on life. I wrestled with faith and doubt. Was there a container that could hold them both?

The reality is that none of us can ever know exactly what will happen next. And, no one knows what is on the other side of death. It is a mystery. But mystery is not just an unknown void. Mystery is a place of curiosity and awe, amazement and surprise; and it is a place of uncertainty, doubt, and silence. Mystery can contain faith and doubt – mix and stir – and stand back!

In isolation, I don’t fully enjoy mystery’s awe and excitement nor do I much like meeting alone with doubt and the unknown. Surprise and wonder, uncertainty and doubt are most completely experienced with family, friends, and community. Mystery is an intriguing, unique container where I can hold “I don’t know” and “I don’t understand” with “Yay!” and “Eureka!”

Mystery is a container for faith and doubt, where I choose to “walk not by sight,” where I choose to hold uncertainty without fear. In living with what is, I’m willing to live without answers. I’m willing to embrace wonder and awe, uncertainty and doubt, and God’s silence – all  as mystery: the vessel of faith, a container held together by the love that we share and the love that surrounds us.

or clarity
or knowing,


the vessels of faith

– ©Kathleen Friesen, 2017

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4 Responses to faith and doubt: living with what is

  1. Trish Brenneman says:

    Oh Kathleen, thanks for sharing your journey!
    I am inspired by your thoughts!Trish

    • Thank you, Trish. Your friendship and support are part of the community that surrounds me. I am grateful for you and for that community.

  2. “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all. Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” This post is both truthful and beautiful. Thank you.

    • By starting the conversation with Keats, Shirley, I’m already thinking about how truth and beauty are an important part of the mystery of faith and doubt.

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