Jon Krakauer is one of my favorite authors. His book Into Thin Air, which documents a 1996 mountaineering disaster on Mt. Everest, is a masterpiece. Just recently I finished reading another one of his best sellers, Under the Banner of Heaven, which provides a fascinating (and unflattering) history of Mormonism.
At the end of that second book, Krakauer opens up about his own religious beliefs, admitting that he is an agnostic. “I don’t know what God is, or what God had in mind when the universe was set in motion,” he writes. “In fact, I don’t know if God even exists.” Later, he adds, “I’ve come to terms with the fact that uncertainty is simply part of the bargain.”
Then Krakauer says something extraordinary (emphasis mine):
“And if I remain in the dark about our purpose here, and the meaning of eternity, I have nevertheless arrived at an understanding of a few more modest truths: Most of us fear death. Most of us yearn to comprehend how we got here, and why—which is to say, most of us ache to know the love of our creator. And we will no doubt feel that ache, most of us, for as long as we happen to be alive.”
And with that, the book ends.
Krakauer’s honesty is refreshing. “I wish there were a god who knew and loved me,” he’s basically saying. “I wish there were a higher purpose, a creator who could give meaning to my life. But after considering the evidence, I am not sure if that is the case.”
Often I find myself thinking similar thoughts. Deep down, I believe God exists, but my ever-inquisitive brain struggles to make sense of my faith. God, why don’t you make yourself more evident? I wonder. Why are you so elusive? I believe you exist and I believe you love me, but sometimes I’m just not sure. Faith says yes, but my brain says no.
There are no easy answers to those questions. What helps me, though, is to remember that, at least in this life, satisfying answers to those questions may simply not be knowable. As Krakauer says, this life is full of uncertainty. Attempts to fully understand anything or anyone (including God) are futile, because our powers of comprehension are limited. We can make educated guesses, but there are a lot of gaps in our understanding that will never be completed filled.
So should we stop thinking? Should we throw up our hands in despair and abandon the pursuit of knowledge? Of course not. We should seek to know, seek to understand, all the while humbly remembering the limitations of our intellect. Some things are simply beyond comprehension. And that’s okay.
Although our minds are unable to grasp all the mysteries of the universe, for those of us who have by faith committed our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ, we can be so thankful that we have experienced the love of the creator firsthand.
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” | 1 John 4:9-10
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