Does everyone have a "God-shaped hole"?
Question: "Does everyone have a "God-shaped hole"?"
Answer: The origin of the phrase “God-shaped hole” seems to be Augustine's prayer, "You have created us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you." The meaning of the God-shaped hole is the innate longing of the human heart for something outside itself, something transcendent, something “other.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 refers to God's placing of "eternity in man’s heart.'' God made men for His
everlasting purpose, and nothing in post-Fall time can bring them complete satisfaction. It is evident that God has placed “eternity” in our hearts, because men universally desire everlasting life. All religion is based on that desire. All religions promise heaven or some variation of it. No one wants to die; all want to live everlastingly.
The problem is not with eternity in the heart; it is with the human heart itself. Jeremiah 17:9 describes the condition of the unregenerate heart: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Solomon reiterates the same concept: “the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live” (Ecclesiastes 9:3). The New Testament concurs: “For the mind that is set
on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot” (Romans 8:7). Again, in Romans: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:11). So, the natural, unregenerate man does not have a God-shaped hole in his heart. In fact, his heart is at war with God.
So, does the “God-shaped hole” ever exist in people’s hearts? Yes, but only when and if the hole is created by God Himself by the work of the Holy Spirit. This is known as “regeneration” and is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit by which the divine nature and divine life are given (John 3:3–8; Titus 3:5). It is accomplished solely by the power of the Holy Spirit through the instrumentality of the Word of God (John 5:24). What
the person responds to could be called the God-shaped hole in the heart, created by the Holy Spirit and placed there so the repentant sinner, as enabled by the Holy Spirit, responds in faith to the God’s provision of salvation through Jesus Christ. Those who do not respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit—who convicts the world of sin and judgment (John 16:8)—may look for eternity, but they will not find the Way to everlasting life,
available only through Christ (John 14:6).
Sadly, too many spend their lives looking for something other than God to fill their longing for meaning—business, family, sports, etc. But in pursuing these things that are not everlasting, they remain unfulfilled and wondering why their lives never seem satisfactory. There is no doubt that many people pursue things other than God and that they can achieve a measure of “happiness” for a time. But when we consider Solomon, who had all the
riches, success, esteem, and power in the world—in short, all that men seek after in this life—we see that none of it fulfilled the longing for eternity. He declared it all “vanity,” meaning that he sought after these things in vain because they did not satisfy. In the end he said, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
So, the God-shaped hole does exist in the hearts of those who are being regenerated by the Holy Spirit. If we feel the prompting of the Spirit, we will respond by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. When that happens, the God-shaped hole will be filled forever.
Recommended Resource: Hard Questions, Real Answers by William Lane Craig.
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