Thanks, Iris. I struggle with these issues, too. And it helps me sometimes to read a little Flannery O'Connor or more recently, Brian Doyle.
Oh yes, Brian Doyle is another writer who gives me courage. Thanks for the reminder, Kim.
From a book (Beginning to Pray — Anthony Bloom) that's been clearing up some of my recent bewilderments:
“At the outset there is, then, one very important problem: the situation of one for whom God seems to be absent. [& that seems to be most of the Friends I've found hard to say this to: that “'Faith' is not a belief system.]… Obviously I am not speaking of a real absence — God is never really absent — but of the sense of absence which we have. We stand before God and we shout into an empty sky, out of which there is no reply… What ought we to think of this situation?
First of all, it is very important to remember that prayer is an encounter and a relationship, a relationship which is deep, and this relationship cannot be force either on us or on God. The fact that God can make Himself present or can leave us with the sense of His absence is part of this live and real relationship. If we could mechanically draw Him into an encounter, force Him to meet us, simply because we have chosen this moment to meet Him, there would be no relationship and no encounter. We can do that with an image, with the imagination, or with the various idols we can put in front of ourselves instead of God; we can do nothing of the sort with the living God, any more than we can do it with a living person…. If you look at the relationship in terms of mutual relationship, you will see that God could complain about us a great deal more than we about Him. We complain that He does not make Himself present for the few minutes we reserve for Him, but what about the twenty-three and a half hours during which God may be knocking at our door and we answer 'I am busy, I am sorry' or when we do not answer at all… So there is a situation in which we have no right to complain of the absence of God, because we are a great deal more absent than He ever is.
“The second very important thing is that a meeting face to face with God is always a moment of judgment for us…”
So is this really an “Age of unbelief”? — Isn't it more like a time in which people reject “Believing” because they've rejected the possibility of Knowing? Because touching the ultimate What-It-Is could get scary, could knock a few cherished assumptions & self-concepts loose, could turn out in fact to demand more than we want to give? (I find that last consideration pretty worrisome myself…)