You are depriving yourself if you do not experience what humankind has experienced, including doubt and sorrow. We experience pain and difficulty as failure instead of saying, I will pass through this, everyone I have ever admired has passed through this, music has come out of this, literature has come out of it. We should think of our humanity as a privilege.
From Marilynne Robinson (unknown source).
In the matter of belief, I have always found that defenses have the same irrelevance about them as the criticisms they are meant to answer. I think the attempt to defend belief can unsettle it, in fact, because there is always an inadequacy in argument about ultimate things. We participate in Being without remainder. No breath, no thought, no wart or whisker, is not as sunk in Being as it could be. And yet no one can say what Being is. If you describe what a thought and a whisker have in common, and a typhoon and a rise in the stock market, exclud- ing “existence,” which merely restates the fact that they have a place on our list of known and nameable things (and which would yield as insight: being equals existencel), you would have accomplished a wonderful thing, still too partial in an infinite degree to have any meaning, however.
I’ve lost my point. It was to the effect that you can assert the existence of something—Being—having not the slightest notion of what it is. Then God is at a greater remove altogether—if God is the Author of Existence, what can it mean to say God exists? There’s a problem in vocabulary. He would have to have had a character before existence which the poverty of our understanding can only call existence. That is clearly a source of confusion. Another term would be needed to describe a state or quality of which we can have no experience whatever, to which existence as we know it can bear only the slightest likeness or affinity. So creating proofs from experience of any sort is like building a ladder to the moon. It seems that it should be possible, until you stop to consider the nature of the problem.
So my advice is this—don’t look for proofs. Don’t bother with them at all. They are never sufficient to the question, and they’re always a little impertinent, I think, because they claim for God a place within our conceptual grasp. And they will likely sound wrong to you even if you convince someone else with them. That is very unsettling over the long term. “Let your works so shine before men,” etc. It was Coleridge who said Christianity is a life, not a doctrine, words to that effect. I’m not saying never doubt or question. The Lord gave you a mind so that you would make honest use of it. I’m saying you must be sure that the doubts and questions are your own, not, so to speak, the mustache and walking stick that happen to be the fashion of any particular moment.
Marilynne Robinson in Gilead.
“Rabbi,” they answered, “lately the Jews sought to stone you, and are you going there again?” It was Thomas who accepted the tragedy of the thing: “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:8, 16). Thomas may also have been something of a loner, which would explain why, when the risen Lord paid his first visit to the assembled apostles, Thomas “was not with them when Jesus came” (20:24). One speculates that he may have gone off to get a better grip on himself. It had been a very tough week, after all. Just as Thomas had suspected it would, Jesus’ life ended in tragedy. This, the apostle was sure, was the biggest tragedy he had ever seen. Yet he was coping with it, somehow. Years of an inner docility to inevitable fate had schooled him in the discipline of endurance. Yes, he would get through this too. He was a man who could deal with misfortune and sorrow. Just don’t disturb Thomas with hope.
Thomas sensed that his long-established pessimism was about to be shaken. He rose and faced the entering light. He saw the familiar face and recognized the familiar voice: “Peace to you!” We do not know if Thomas felt, at that moment, some urge to hide behind the other apostles. He was not given the chance. Turning to Thomas, the risen Jesus fully appreciated the irony of the hour. Nor would we be wrong, I think, to imagine a smile coming over the glorious face of the one who said to his beloved pessimist: “Reach your finger here, and inspect my hands; and reach your hand here, and place it into my side.”
From The Jesus We Missed: The Surprising Truth About the Humanity of Christ by Patrick Henry Reardon.
Poem by Scott Cairns (published in his collections Theology of Doubt and Compass of Affection):
The Theology of Doubt
I have come to believe this fickleness
of belief is unavoidable. As, for these
back lot trees, the annual loss
of leaves and fruit is unavoidable.
I remember hearing that soft-soap
about faith being given
only to the faithful—mean trick,
if you believe it. This afternoon,
during my walk, which
I have come to believe is good
for me, I noticed one of those
ridiculous leaves hanging
midway up an otherwise naked oak.
The wind did what it could
to bring it down, but the slow
learner continued dancing. Then again,
once, hoping for the last good apple,
I reached among bare branches,
pulling into my hand
an apple too soft for anything
and warm to the touch, fly blown.