I grew up in a Christian family, but at 13 I became an atheist. When I was 18, I left my hometown of Rio with a backpack and set off to see the world. I visited the British Isles, then crossed the Channel and took a bus overland to India, through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. I learned that Arabic speakers use the same expression, As-salamu alaykum—the peace of God be with you—for hello and goodbye. Once in a little town in Afghanistan, I heard a boy singing a beautiful song in his father’s tailor shop. When I asked what he was singing, he said, “The Koran, of course.” When I arrived in Goa, I stayed with a group of French young people who would sit in their hut and spend hours silently contemplating a lit candle on the table.
I remember thinking, There must be a God. Everywhere I go, people are seeking Him. Soon I found my Christian roots again and became a missionary, and that’s when I began learning what having faith really meant.
In my experience, as you pass the tests of life one by one, you will find that faith beckons you onwards. It keeps you going when setbacks and discouragement scream that you should give up. It’s a still small voice that tells you in the midst of turmoil that everything is going to be all right. Faith grows through the challenges we overcome day by day.
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If God would give us all the gifts and everything that He is able to give, but withhold only Himself, we would remain hungry and unsatisfied. The inward stirring and touching of God makes us hungry and yearning; for the Spirit of God hunts our spirit, and the more it touches it, the greater our hunger and our craving. And this is the life of love in its highest working, above reason and above understanding; for reason can here neither give nor take away from love, for our love is touched by the divine love.—John of Ruysbroeck (1293–1381), adapted
Religion leaves a million questions unanswered and apparently unanswerable. … Religion does not relieve us from the duty of thought; it makes it possible for a man to begin thinking. It does not put an end to research and enquiry, it gives a basis from which real research is made possible and fruitful of results.—G. A. Studdert Kennedy in The Wicket Gate (1923)