Faith

This is a post I’ve been thinking about writing for a long while. I’ve written it and rewritten it in my head many times, trying to figure out whether or not to share this, but I always return to the fact that these things are often not discussed as openly as they should. I feel compelled to share.

I struggle with my faith. I doubt. I clamor for the right answers sometimes, especially in gray areas. My intellect wars with my heart trying to convince me that faith is for the weak, that my faith will be exploited by others. Amidst all of this I also fully adhere to the Christian belief. I am a Christian that doubts. It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with this fact.

I know it may seem crazy to admit this, but I feel like this type of struggle needs to be public so that people know that it’s normal. Discussing these things that seem taboo is a sign of sincerity for me. Letting people into the places that are dark that we want to hide is the only way to shine light and heal. With everything in me I don’t want to have an insincere faith and I especially don’t want to be portrayed as something I am not. My beliefs are not saccharine. It is one with great complexity, bitterness, sweetness, highs and lows. I don’t claim to have all the answers. If I did, it wouldn’t be faith.

When reading the Bible, the people I relate most to cry out to Jesus, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Matthew 9:24) and “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3). It is reassuring to me that they are included because my doubt walks right alongside my faith most of the time. I do believe Jesus came to redeem humanity from their sin. Every last one of us. He doesn’t play favorites. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or what your past holds. No guilt is too much for him. No sin. That is why I love Him. He is beyond everything I can imagine and that is why I’ve committed my life to Him.

Sometimes I feel a little crazy for admitting these things. A bit like a gypsy fortune teller. Kooky. A cult member, drinking the kool-aid. My journey to faith has been messy. If I’m honest with myself, it still is messy and it hasn’t been easy – I’ve walked away several times, but I can’t help coming back. I am seduced by His love for me and everyone else. Something in my heart just sings with pleasure at the thought of Him and His reckless, nonsensical and nonjudgmental love. Something in me is fulfilled in ways I can’t explain. He brings beauty to this mess.

I’m not writing this to try and convert people because I don’t believe that I could convert people if I tried. I do believe that I can hold an open conversation and share my life, the good and the bad, as a testament to how He has changed me. There is no question that I am still a work in progress and will be until I die, but I want to share this journey with you, my friends, because it is meaningful to me. What is the point of life if you don’t share the significant parts with people?

So here I am laying it all out there for you blog readers. My heart desires that you would feel redemption as I have but I am not here to convince you of anything. It’s crazy, I know, but I want to hear from you guys about your faith journeys.

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25 Comments

  1. Posted January 7, 2010 at 10:59 am | Permalink | Reply

    Wow beth great post. Ahhh well my world came crashing down last year as you know and my dream of being a mom died, my life as I had planned it was gone, and honestly there was a point where I thought I would just watch my faith die too. The reality was it was the only real thing in my life that survived. It helped me recover and rebuild and I feel like I have the full spectrum of what faith means (I definetely didn’t before) and it is more precious to me than anything. Truly anything I can think of that I love so recklessly and deeply. There was a point when I threw every ammunition I had at God. Either I love You or I don’t. Either I live for you or I don’t. Quite simply- I lost. But I lived in the grey area for a long time. I think that’s ok too.

    • Elizabeth
      Posted January 7, 2010 at 8:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

      My heart grieves with you but I know I could never fully understand your experience. Thank you so much for sharing it with all of us – I know I love your honesty hearing how you battled it out with God. I am so thankful that he lets us scream and yell at him and still loves us.

  2. Posted January 7, 2010 at 11:06 am | Permalink | Reply

    “He brings beauty to this mess.” I loved that!! sweet post.

  3. Posted January 7, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I just want to say that I love your blog, and you put into words how I have felt so often. I just haven’t been able to say it as eloquently as you have. 🙂

  4. Sarah Foss
    Posted January 7, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I was so thrilled to read this. Its not easy to put yourself out there, so many people are so critical! I struggle with doubt and “mess” as well but it’s nice to know I’m not alone. Thank you for your sincerity and honesty!

  5. Anita
    Posted January 7, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I have to say I had a heavy feeling in my chest when reading this…I’m not sure why. I am not an avid church goer. We never went as children, but my parents are both believers. I have been with the same person for 7 years and just got married 2 years ago. Now that we have a little one (2 months) my husband (who grew up going to church) wants to start going to church so his son will have the same experiences that he did as a child. Its not that I don’t like church, I just don’t do well. I have been told many times it’s the holy spirit coming threw me. I can’t control it. Last Halloween Chad and I went to find my sister at a church function. I literally hit the steps of the church and started crying. I don’t know why this is happening but it keeps me out of church. I am the type of person to talk about religion beliefs in detail with anyone. I don’t care what others believe, because I believe what is in my heart. I don’t try to convince others to believe as I do because I do not want them to try to convince me to stray from what I know is in my heart. I like talking about religion and what is in the bible with my husband, because I know he is not one to judge me and he will love me no matter what I believe whether or not he agrees. Even now as I write this just thinking about sitting in a church with my son tears start streaming down my face. I wouldn’t say that my faith is shaky, I do believe that everything happens for a reason and that God has a plan. I just wish I could go to church and not lose it! Have you ever heard of anyone else with such an issue?

    • Elizabeth
      Posted January 7, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I haven’t heard of anyone else that has experienced this! I’m so sorry that happens to you. What type of emotion do you feel when you are overwhelmed at the church? Does it happen if you gather as a small group too? Maybe a home church would work well for you?

      • Sharon
        Posted January 9, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

        well it happens to me. I make it into church and feel overwhelmed. I am a big time doubter, but when I walk into church and sing, I well up with tears and get choked up. Maybe Anita, you can’t go in because you know in your heart that Jesus is your saviour and that he will consume your heart. I resisted for a long time and never wanted to admit the feelings that I had, that you have, to myself or others. If you went to church and cried throughout the whole experience would you feel awkward that you are being watched or that you can’t control your emotions? Just curious.

        • Kitty
          Posted January 15, 2010 at 9:59 am | Permalink

          to Anita and Sharon,

          Can you identify the emotion that is causing the tears? is it joy or sorrow? dread, or light freedom? I think I’d take that emotion and ask the Lord to show you why you feel that way, esp if it is dread or sorrow.

          For instance an emotion of Joy might be related to being in the company of others who love the Lord, or dread might be a feeling we feel if we feel like the Lord or the church members are going to judge us for something. Sorrow can be related to our realization that our sins are placed on his willing and innocent shoulders.

          I could give you ideas all day of why certain emotions overwhelm us in conjunction with our religious experiences, but God is infinitely varied and I might miss the mark by a mile. That’s why you need to take it to the Lord. remember the Bible says to immerse ourselves in the Word and the Holy Spirit will be our Teacher. he does tell us not to forsake the gathering together of of the Saints so we know he wants us to go to church..

          Therefore I’d think that the overflow of emotion won’t continue to a constant problem if you keep going back, but you may have a sensitive nature which may continue to overflow now and then when the Holy Spirit is particularly strong in the service. Don’t look on it as a problem but a sensitivity to the Lord.

          FWIW, Kitty

  6. Posted January 7, 2010 at 7:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I’m so glad that you decided to post this. I think you learn just a ton by writing things down “out loud”. I think you are human to question such things. I starting watching and listening to Joel Osteen about 8 months ago and it has changed my life. He says something like religion of the past can really beat you down and make you feel guilty. His religion is to ask for all the favor you can and put your trust in God and rejoice. And you know what, I have, and tremendous things have happened. My biggest dream yet, our new baby coming in March, still blows my mind. It’s a new peaceful feeling not to think that I have to feel guilty about everything wrong I’ve done in the past. You can repent and get over it. I love this new-found feeling of happiness and joy when it comes to faith. It’s a very refreshing way to live. I also was afraid to share this with my husband…not sure why….but I did, slowly, and now he watches with me every Sunday morning and mentions little things here and there about the messages. It’s so much easier now. Life is messy, but you have to clean it up and start again…and wait for the next mess and keep doing it over and over again. And know that when you feel that you’re at the very bottom, things are just about to get much better!

    • Elizabeth
      Posted January 7, 2010 at 9:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

      You know Charlotte, I think I remember noticing a difference in you. 🙂 Guilt can be so paralyzing and I think that we as women, carry our guilt with us because we feel like we have to – it becomes part of us. I was raised Catholic and I feel like Catholicism as a whole risks veering too far on the guilt side of the faith spectrum. . . I still struggle with feeling guilty about every little thing I do, even if I shouldn’t. I am so glad to hear that you feel freed of living with one foot in your past. There is no need for that and living without guilt is so incredibly peaceful! God certainly isn’t here to guilt us but to grow us to become more like Him.

      I completely understand not wanting to share some of these things with your husband! One of my darkest times was right before Jason and I got married and I was so worried that he wouldn’t want to marry me if I shared my struggles with him. Turns out it was the opposite. 🙂 He wanted to walk through it with me. It’s so hard to risk rejection from those that you’re closest too.

      And yes, I couldn’t say it better – life is one mess after another. All you can do is clean up each one, keep moving and look to God for help.

      Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  7. Posted January 7, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Permalink | Reply

    you are so not alone in this. i am in a place that i may be climbing out of a hole, seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. my faith in God has sustained me before through troubled times, but never without a fight. sometimes it a fight of willpower in whether i doubt or not.

    over the last year i realized the depth of my faith. maybe the lack thereof of that depth would be appropriate. as i’ve said to one of my friends, i may not have been on the best speaking terms with God but i’ve at least been on speaking terms with Him. He has sustained me & my husband through a lot over the last couple of years. (my husband’s diagnosis of leukemia & intensive chemo treatment 11 months into our marriage; my age progressing & realizing that children may or may not be a possibility with the added complications from that; medical bills; loss of community; etc.)

    right now i simply find myself sometimes saying the simple prayer “God have mercy on me” because it’s all i can get out. i know He hears me; i feel Him there. i’m on the up side of digging out of this hole & i’m thrilled with that, but cautious. hope springs eternal, though, right?

    i started a bible study by beth moore last year (called “believing God”) to really examine what i believe about God & why i believe it. it has been an immense help in sorting through some of these things. i’m not there, but i AM on my way!

    kudos for sharing. faith is messy & having the space to question is something i believe God recognizes that we need in order to reach a point of full connection & belief with Him.

    • Elizabeth
      Posted January 11, 2010 at 10:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Wow Sharon. Thank you so much for sharing. I can relate to that feeling of climbing out of the hole – I feel like I have been there for years now, slowly putting one arm above the other, one leg above the other. It’s such a difficult journey but one filled with such terrible beauty too.

      My prayers go out to you and your husband. I am so grateful for his mercy and I can certainly relate to your simple prayer. Thank God that it’s true.

  8. Posted January 8, 2010 at 8:48 am | Permalink | Reply

    Elizabeth, thank you so much for sharing! I think we all experience doubt at one point or another – sometimes I feel like mine in recurring, and then my heart reminds of all that He’s done in my life.

    I’ve struggled with fear and worry for as long as I can remember, which probably stems from doubt. I would worry myself to being physically ill when I was in middle and high school. The worry chapter in Matthew always calmed me, and at times, the only I’d sleep at night was when I clung to my bible. It just felt comforting.

    God has brought me far from those days, but there are still the moments when fear and worry creep in. We are facing some unknown circumstances in our life now, and I have to remember all of the scriptures that have gotten me through in the past. Sometimes I feel as though He’s scooped me in His arms, and is just holding me safe, when all of the winds of the world surround me, then I’m free again.

    May 2010 be a year that we love Jesus more and more, may our faith strengthen. I am praying that He opens our eyes to how beautiful this reckless love He has for us truly is, and that when fear and doubt creep it, we can be filled with peace and hope.

    • Elizabeth
      Posted January 11, 2010 at 10:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I understand that feeling of doubt recurring – I feel like that too. More than I would like to admit. It is amazing how much God does even in spite of the doubt/worry/anxiety/fear that we have. He really loves better than we deserve or could imagine.

      My prayers go out to you and your family as well. I understand the unknown circumstances. . . I feel like we are never going to move past the unknown point that we are at right now.

      Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  9. Monica
    Posted January 8, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Permalink | Reply

    My pastor often shares the quote “Doubt is the ants in the pants of faith.” It keeps us seeking. It keeps us from becoming stagnant in our faith. It is good and healthy and, dare I say it, even necessary.

    Thanks for sharing your doubts and your faith with us. They absolutely go hand in hand.

    • Elizabeth
      Posted January 11, 2010 at 10:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

      That is an awesome quote! More of the time it is true, although I feel like I have been stagnant for far to long just giving in to doubt. Talking about it is part of my way of letting God kick me in the pants to start seeking.

  10. Rachael B
    Posted January 9, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I think about this all the time. How neat that so many people have responded so deeply. I, too, think about that man in Matthew. I have a necklace with a mustard seed in it that was my grandmothers. On the back it has the verse Matt. 17:20. Sometimes I think of my faith like that seed. The verses in Matt. 13:31 really encourage me because I know God can make all things grow.

    About a month ago, Phil asked “What mood is God in right now?” My answer showed me alot about myself and how I view God. I think a better (true) view is shown in Ps. 78. He is sweet to us.

    On a side note, I just noticed that there is a tiny smilie face on the bottom left corner of your website. How funny! 🙂

    • Elizabeth
      Posted January 11, 2010 at 10:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I miss Phil. That is such a good question to ask because it really does reveal a lot about my heart.

      And, you know, I had never seen the smiley in the left corner! Crazy wordpress sandbox template designers. 🙂

  11. Sharon
    Posted January 9, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Beth, I wish I had known this last year because we could have walked together through these issues. I know I truly needed women in my life. My journey has been, like you stated, a messy one. I really felt forced and backed into a corner to adhere to Christianity. To be honest and transparent, my husband felt led and tried to get us all to convert. It led to fierce arguements and feelings of “is this the end of us” because I can’t be what he wants. In my heart I would always feel this heaviness in my heart when I heard about Jesus and would tear up. I didn’t know why but I did know that I didn’t want to be forced to conform to anything by anyone.
    The thought of Jeb possibly leaving me for a Christian woman created fear in my heart and mind. I started to “go along” with it and I had high moments and low moments. Serious moments of doubt. I tried to reach out to some women at church but often felt rejected or like an outsider. So that intensified my doubt, believing that here are Christian women in church shunning me. Maybe it just appeared that way to me.
    I see the signs that GOD sends me but my selfish ways makes me choose things that doesn’t include Jesus.
    During Christmas,GOD broke me yet again, forcing my sins into light. This time my heart surrendered for the right reasons. To love my GOD and be obedient,to stop drifting away, and to want him alone and none other.
    I am making an effort to surround myself with strong Christian women, and to not hide. That’s hard for me.
    I have a natural tendency to seek truth, hence my doubting nature will never cease but my goal this year is to be obedient and pleasing to GOD.

    • Elizabeth
      Posted January 11, 2010 at 10:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thank you for sharing Sharon. I understand the fear about having your husband react a certain way to your doubts. I really was afraid to share with Jason about all of this, but he was so supportive in the end.

      It really is important to be in community with a group of women to talk through these things. If you don’t have a group of like minded girls to share with, it’s so easy to pull away and live superficially. I’m really good at this.

      I pray that you will continue to seek truth, surround yourself with faithful women and be obedient and please to God.

      Thank you so much for sharing!

  12. roadknowledge
    Posted January 11, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I really liked you post Elisabeth and there were some wonderful honest comments.

    I to have doubted my faith many times over the years. My faith has grown stronger the past three years from my decision to get involved in church. I don’t mean just going to church on Sundays. I mean INVOLVED.

    I have been teaching second grade ministry for two years and I participate with a small home group twice a month. This has helped me grow by learning God’s word.

    I get emotional at church too as it was the death of my step-son that really lead me back into the church doors, even though I have believed in God my entire life. We are all human, and fear and doubt can be hard for us to overcome.

    Keep doing good work. Thanks for your post.
    Mike
    http://roadknowledge.wordpress.com

    • Elizabeth
      Posted January 11, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

      It’s amazing how much getting involved affects your faith. Something about serving really connects you with the heart of God.

      Thank you for sharing and I am so grateful to everyone that has shared. It makes my heart happy to have these kinds of discussions.

  13. AJ
    Posted January 13, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Beth, you will never cease to amaze me. Your complete honesty inspires me, as well as your struggle with you faith. You know I have faced this my entire life and unlike everyone else who has commented, I still have not found my path to God. I have tried, fought, and forced myself into ‘believing’ because I was supposed to, yet I still cannot. I feel that one day I will find my faith in a higher power, but for the time being my faith is in my friends and family. Though they are far from perfect, they inspire me to be a good person, they have love for me – unwavering love – even when I don’t deserve it. You of course are one of those people and the fact that you can so openly admit that you still struggle makes my faith in you that much stronger. I believe that one day my faith in the power of the love of my family and friends with mature into faith in the love of God. I suppose it is just going to take me longer to get there.
    And, you know Jeremy is amazing, but I was scared he would not understand my lack of belief. He comes from a family that is very, very Catholic and I was terrified he would not want to face the controversy of marrying a non-believer. But he truly understands and we talk about it regularly still. Once my mother in law flat out asked me if I believed in God and I told her the truth: I want to, but haven’t found a way to yet. She told me to never tell my father in law because he would never speak to me again. That broke my heart. It is hard enough to fight this struggle internally, but to know you are being judged by others because of it is completely discouraging and painful. That’s why you are so great. You know all about it and have never shunned me, but rather supported me. You inspire me to continue to try to find my faith. Thank you for your great post and for your amazing friendship.

    • Elizabeth
      Posted January 13, 2010 at 9:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Amanda, thank you so much for sharing. I treasure our friendship for the honesty and openness that it has had since the beginning. You really are blessed to have a husband that listens and loves you despite your struggle. I understand that because Jason is the same way. I was at a very dark place in my faith when we got married and he still loved me and wanted to be my husband. I’m so glad Jeremy is that to you. I love you bunches and am so glad that you are continuing your search for faith. I will always be praying for you (but I think you already know that 🙂 ). We need to come to Houston to visit with you guys soon!

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