Created by Albert Gyorgy, Romanian artist, reflecting on human emptiness. Located on the shoreline of Lake Geneva, Switzerland. (https://wooarts.com/albert-gyorgy-gallery/)
This phrase is frequently used by leaders in the 12-Step Recovery Program in helping those who struggle with addiction and feel a sense of emptiness or incompleteness that keeps driving them back to the bottle or the needle. An article on a leading blogsite expresses it:
“The desire is often unquenchable. Even when it seems fulfilled, it leaves a desire for more. When this level of soul sickness is reached, alcohol and drugs may be the only way to numb the pain—until they contribute to the problem more than they alleviate it. We discover that there is an inner void that no amount of money, prestige, success, or alcohol and drugs can fill. This sounds bleak, but it’s actually good news. Once the unquenchable nature of this void is recognized—the point of surrender—then we are ready to acknowledge its shape. And if we are willing to entertain the notion that it’s a ‘GOD-SHAPED HOLE’ (as the 17th century French philosopher Blaise Pascal described it), then it’s reasonable to stop attempting to fill it with things that paradoxically make it even bigger and deeper. When we live a life in which the God-shaped hole is admitted to be a natural longing for a connection to God, we find we have a much better chance to live a sober and satisfying life.”1 (edited for brevity)
As the writer says, Blaise Pascal (AD 1623-1662) is credited with creating the idea of a GOD-SHAPED HOLE in each of us. His actual statement is:
“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 immutable object; in other words, by God himself.”2
Of course, this idea of the GOD-SHAPED HOLE wasn’t new with Pascal, either. He was familiar with the Confessions of Saint Augustine of Hippo, who had lived thirteen centuries earlier (AD 354-430), and wrote:
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”3 After spending years as a loose-living pagan, Augustine committed his life to Christ at the age of 31. In retrospect, he realized that his earlier lifestyle, which included two unmarried love relationships with women, one resulting in a child born out of wedlock, was in search of something to fill his inner emptiness.4
But the GOD-SHAPED HOLE wasn’t a new discovery with Augustine, either. Remember Jesus’ encounter with the Woman at the Well, recorded in John’s Gospel? He engaged her in a conversation, even though she belonged to a racial group a “proper” Jewish man would avoid. He asked her for a drink from the bucket of water she had just drawn up from the town well. After some verbal banter about their religious differences, Jesus stopped her with this dramatic challenge:
“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)
The woman puzzled over his meaning, so he added:
“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (verses 13-14)
She immediately answered:
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” (verse 15)
She didn’t quite understand all of it, but she knew that she had an unquenchable thirst inside of her that nothing else could satisfy. Jesus pointed that out by reminding her that her five previous husbands and current live-in male companion couldn’t fulfill her longings (verses 16-18). Her addiction was to men. But her problem was really a GOD-SHAPED HOLE. That day she filled it by become a believer (verses 25-26). Right away, she started telling everybody, because there was a spring of water gushing up to eternal life, enough for her, all the men in her life, and everybody she ran into on the street (verses 28-29).
A hole replaced by a gusher!
– – Pastor George Van Alstine
2 https://itsjustme.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/the-correct-quote-of-blaise-pascal/ [This is from page 75 of Blaise Pascal’s Pensees (New York; Penguin Books, 1966).]
4 You might say that, when he realized he was holey (empty inside), he turned to God and became holy (declared a “saint” by the Church).