The God-shaped hole
There is a great gap, a chasm, between God and humanity. When God created Adam and Eve, He walked and talked with them every day. But, when they sinned, the link between God and man was broken. Because of this there is a God-shaped hole in every human heart. The biblical book of Ecclesiastes refers to this when it says that God “has set eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). As St. Augustine wrote in his Confessions: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
Others throughout history have alluded to the same experience that Augustine writes of. John Calvin, the French Protestant reformer, called this feeling the “senses divinitatis” (sense of divinity). He writes,
There is within the human mind, and indeed by natural instinct, an awareness of divinity. This we take to be beyond controversy. To prevent anyone from taking refuge in the pretense of ignorance, God himself has implanted in all men a certain understanding of his divine majesty …Men of sound judgment will alway be sure that a sense of divinity which can never be effaced is engraved upon men’s minds. Indeed, the perversity of the impious, who though they struggle furiously are unable to extricate themselves from the fear of God, is abundant testimony that this conviction, namely, that there is some God, is naturally inborn in all, and is fixed deep within, as it were in the very marrow.
Pascal wrote: “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every person which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator.” He wrote further that
There was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace. This he tried 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 immutable object, in other words by God Himself.
C. S. Lewis’ also wrote about a “God-shaped vacuum” in his book “Screwtape Letters,” and Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, said, “There is a hole in our hearts that only God can fill.” The atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) wrote of the hopeless reality of life without God:
That man is the product of causes which had no previsions of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extension in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitable be buried under the debris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”
Bertrand Russell also wrote that, “The centre of me is always and eternally a terrible pain—a curious wild pain—a searching for something beyond what the world contains.”
All down the millennia, humans have tried to fill in this hole. Some try to fill it with sex, but after dozens of partners, they find themselves still searching for love. Others think they can fill it with philosophy and intellectualism, but after a lifetime of learning, they still feel unsatisfied. Others try to fill the hole with pleasure, only to find that fine foods and wines turn to ashes in their mouths. Some seek fame, only to be disappointed with the fleeting glory. Still others seek meaning in sports, but at the end of life, their bodies are broken down and they are unable to compete with younger athletes. Others turn to the highs of drugs and alcohol only to be disappointed by a hangover the next morning. Sadly, others think that the self-annihilation of suicide is the solution. Others turn to religion in order to find a measure of solace.
Atheists often point to the multiplicity of religions as evidence that there is no true religion. But the existence of many different religions only proves how truly there is a hole inside humans that continually seeks God. We can deny the feeling, run away from it, try to ignore it—but there it is. When we are hungry, there is a feeling in the pit of our stomachs that prompts us to seek food. In the same way, the hole in our souls makes us hungry for our Creator. As C.S. Lewis wrote:
Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly desires satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly desires were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.
Humans desire purpose and meaning. So, there must be a means for this desire to be fulfilled. Humans have an innate sense of the divine. So, there must be a Divinity to satisfy it. Humans have a God-shaped hole in side of them, so there must be a God who can fill it.
The loggerhead sea turtle returns to lay its eggs on the same beach where it was born. The turtle travels thousands of miles in the oceans of the world, but it always finds its way home using an internal GPS system that uses the Earth’s magnetic field. In a similar way, each human has an internal GPS system that points towards heaven.
This difference between what we experience in life, and what we believe we should be experiencing, is the real “missing link” in human history. Jesus Christ came from heaven to earth to restore that link, and create a new way for man and God to be connected once again. When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, He became the bridge between God and man, between heaven and earth. He is the only way to God, the only way to heaven. As he said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
Understanding the gap
As mentioned earlier in the chapter, sin is what opened the gap between man and God. Adam and Eve chose an adventure for themselves and humanity: sin. The consequences of their choice have affected humanity ever since. The problem with sin is that it always has consequences. The Bible says, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). Later, it warns, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). For some people the consequences of sin catch up immediately, and for others it takes longer for the price to be revealed. But ultimately, sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.
This problem of sin is universal. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Earlier in the same chapter Paul tells us, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). Every person has made mistakes and fallen short of his or her own standards of what is good and right, let alone God’s standards. Look around at our world: crime, racism, bigotry, hate, and war continue to increase despite humanity’s best efforts to overcome them.
For a time, there was optimism that science held the answers that humanity is seeking. The Enlightenment exalted human reason and hoped that human wisdom would lead to peace and happiness for the whole world. This hope was brutally shattered by World War I and II and the subsequent Cold War between the United States and the Communist World. The same science that promised to cure disease also taught us how to kill more efficiently. Philosophies that promised hope for those trapped in poverty ended up enslaving millions of people. Our best efforts have not solved the problem of evil.
Part of the reason is that humanity has to go beyond asking, “Why is there evil in the world?” to asking, “Why is there evil in me?” Despite my best efforts, why do I mess up sometimes? I want to love my wife, but sometimes I lose my temper. I want to obey the law, but sometimes I get a speeding ticket. Why is it so hard to do what is right? I know the difference between right and wrong, but sometimes my own selfishness, lust, and pride compel me act in ways that are detrimental to my long-term happiness. The Russian novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) wrote, “the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart.” The problem of evil is addressed not by trying to fix evil, but by addressing the problem of sin.
Addressing the problem of sin can be tricky. Sin is deceptive—like the weavers in the fairy tale who convince the emperor that only hopelessly stupid people won’t admire the wonderful clothes they have dressed him in. The emperor, not wanting to be hopelessly stupid, and his court, wanting to maintain favor with the emperor, admire the work of the weavers. The only problem is, the weavers haven’t woven any clothes, and the emperor is walking around naked. Only when a child blurts out the truth, does everyone begin to acknowledge the problem. In the same way, sin blinds people to the problem of sin One reason apologetics with non-believers is so difficult is because sin keeps them from seeing God or acknowledging their need of Him. The only way to remove this blindfold of sin is to put one’s faith in God’s child, Jesus Christ.
Jesus paid the price to redeem us from sin
The only way to fill the hole in your heart is to meet the Creator your heart longs for. Right now, that hole is filled with sin. It might be filled with lust, pride, addiction, hate, fear, or pain. The only thing that can remove the sin and fill the hole is a relationship with Jesus Christ. Once you meet Jesus, He will fill your heart and your sin will disappear.
This is the miracle of Christianity. God became man and came to earth to live here among his creations. Jesus, the Son of God, was born to the Virgin Mary and walked the dusty streets of Israel. He lived a perfect life and then He gave His life on the cross to pay the price for the sins of humanity. We deserve to die because of our sins, but Christ died in our place. Jesus’ death paid the price for our sins and His resurrection proves that God accepted His death as payment for our sins. As the Bible says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This is good news because it means we can be saved from your sins. We can choose a new adventure. The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
I know of an old man in Africa. Once, he was walking down a road and carrying a heavy sack of rice. He had recently been saved and he was telling everyone he knew about what had happened when Jesus came into his life. On his way, he met an educated foreigner who was an atheist. The unbeliever said to the old man, “How can you know you are saved? Nobody can ever really know such a thing.” The man threw down the sack of rice and replied, “How do I know I’m not carrying the bag of rice? I’m not looking at it.” The atheist said, “You feel less weight on your back.” The old man explained, “That’s exactly how I know I’m saved. I no longer feel the heavy burden of my sin.”