Just a warning this may get a little long, but it will be honest.
I fear what comes after death.
I call myself a Christian, I am sincere when I claim that and have no problem saying that to anybody. As a matter of fact when I am confronted by atheists is when my Christianity, or the reasons that I believe in God, are the strongest.†I can go toe-to-toe with the most ardent atheist around in an apologetics sort of way.
But when I am alone I am not sure that I believe, honestly speaking, after everything I have read or studied, and it's a lot. What if all the godly people who are the giants of faith are wrong? What if after death there is nothing but blackness? Or less than blackness? What a waste. What a tragedy.
I have to be honest and say that I have not read the Bible cover-to-cover though there are six of them at the house. I have read countless books and articles though.
God or no God? This question haunts me every second I am awake -- every second.
I have asked God countless times to†increase my faith. I have asked him to do something to strengthen me -- something, anything.
Atheists are doing something -- all the time. They are relentless. They are mean.
In the few moments of sanity that I have, I cannot imagine a walking bag of chemical reactions writing a song, or enjoying a song, or dancing to a song, or dreaming up pineapple-upside-down cake. But sometimes that's all I got.
I†cannot honestly say that I love the Lord. I fear Him, and I can defend Him better than most, maybe that is enough. I would love to love Him. I would love to fall down in tears before Him sincerely. I have cried sincerely twice in my life -- twice -- I am forty-two.
I do not want to ask him for a sign, that is just so, well, Catholic. I don't want to just convince myself. I believe that would be fake.
I want to know Him, love Him, I want a full blown Christ experience that would leave no doubt. There is not a more willing person on this planet that hungers for a true relationship with Him than I.
Well, there it is.
"Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up--if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable" (I Corinthians 15:12-19).
I think you hit upon the problem without realizing it. You have little foundation for your faith. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). You are well read, but not in the source of life. You've read books about the book, but since most of your knowledge comes second hand it doesn't feel real to you.
The reason the Bible exists is not to be merely a reference book. It is there to be read. "And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:30-31). They were written so that you and I can share the experience of knowing God. "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life -- the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us -- that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full" (I John 1:1-4).
Is it any wonder that Paul urged Timothy to diligently study the Scriptures? "Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness" (II Timothy 2:14-16).
You see, at the moment you can prove that God exists. But that is something readily seen in nature. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:18-20). You are not among those who deny the evidence and you can wield that evidence effectively. But that is only a part of faith.
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). You have the first half: You believe that God exists. However, you haven't developed the second half: believing that God rewards those who diligently seek Him. How is that gained? It comes from seeing how God treated people in the past, how He kept His promises despite seemingly impossible odds, and seeing His constant care for His creation. You need to know your Bible -- Old Testament and New. You need to see how each element fits together and leads to the goals God laid out. You need to see the justice of God and His mercy as He dealt with wayward people.
And when you truly appreciate God for who He is, then you can give Him your complete love. "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him" (John 14:23). Jesus showed his ultimate love for the Father through his obedience to the Father's will. He tells us we must do the same. Then our faith is complete. "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).