Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
How often have you wanted to escape somewhere, like a perfect place where there are no problems or pressures? I think many of us would like to escape reality. Maybe that’s why we want something which will give us immediate relief—like eating too much food, drugs, falling into self-pity, anger, compulsive shopping, listening to music, watching TV, acquiring more money.
We want these things in an attempt to fill a vacuum or a hole inside: because we feel there’s something missing deep inside. So, we live for ourselves, and don’t always know why we act the way we do. We hurt others who care for us and think there are no consequences. But of course there are always consequences. In those moments on our own, when we’re quiet, we do sense something is wrong. Where is that deep satisfaction and happiness I want? We think that as long as we have lots of fun, we’ll be happy.
What Makes Us Restless
American theologian Paul Tillich says: “Of all the dangers that threaten civilization, this is one of the most dangerous: the escape from ones’ emptiness through a ‘fun’ which makes joy impossible”. Now there’s nothing wrong with having some fun, as long as it’s not the shallow, selfish, distracting and greedy type. It can be an escape from a bigger issue that we don’t want to face up to.
About 400 years after Jesus, there was a bishop named Augustine (354-430 AD)—he is known still today for his most famous book called Confessions, which is his spiritual autobiography. The third sentence into his book says this: “Lord, you have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.” (Confessions 1.1.1.) Not exactly the phrase ‘God-shaped hole’ but the same idea from a different direction. Human hearts are ‘restless’ until finding ‘rest’ in God. Almost like God has a specially designed place into which humans fit.
God has created us for relationships both with himself and each other.
Blaise Pascal (1623-62) said something closer to our phrase over 100 years later:
What else does this craving, and this helplessness proclaim, but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and unchangeable object; in other words by God himself.” (Pensees 10.148)
So, these esteemed men said people have an ’emptiness’ inside which most try to “fill with everything around.” But only God will exactly fit. So, each person has a God-shaped hole (or some like to say vacuum) which most people fill with thrills or entertainment instead of God. But their searching is in vain until they turn from horizontal (looking at the things on earth) to vertical (looking at God). An alternative to this idea is a paraphrased version of a quotation from G.K. Chesterton: “When people cease to believe in God, they do not believe in nothing; they believe in anything!”
The fact is that God has created us for relationships both with himself and each other. It has been rightfully said that 80 percent of life’s satisfaction comes from the quality of our relationships.
You have been created for a purpose in life, and right now you are quite possibly not living for that purpose.
(To be continued in Filling the Void in Our Lives – Part 2)