Is There a God-Shaped Hole in Our Hearts?

There’s a God-shaped hole in all of us

And the restless soul is searching

There’s a God-shaped hole in all of us

And it’s a void only He can fill

~ Plumb, lyrics from God Shaped Hole

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.

~ Blaise Pascal

I was in a college class on the first day.  It might have been a summer class, actually, as the atmosphere in those classes are usually a lot more laid back, but I’m not sure about that.  We were doing the requisite going around the room and introducing ourselves.  It is funny how people start playing follow the leader.  The first one said, “My name is …” followed by their major.  The second one said, “My name is …” and it continued on.

So, it was my turn.  I said, “My name is John, and I’m an alcoholic.”  Everyone busted out laughing, and then I said, “Oh! Wrong meeting!” with a smile.

I was never good at at stand up, nor all that good at telling jokes, so that moment was somewhat of an exception.  It isn’t that I don’t have my moments, but some like that one are particularly memorable.

Of course, part of why it is memorable is because it is true.  I am an alcoholic.  My dad is an alcoholic.  My grandfather most likely was as well.

It was at an alcoholic treatment facility, in fact, that I first heard of a hole in our heart.  I don’t recall whether or not “God sized hole” or even “God shaped hole” was used, so it probably wasn’t.  However, the analogy still applies.  Alcoholics try to fill a void in their lives with all sorts of things, but mostly with alcohol.  Even the non-religious can relate to the fact that this void doesn’t fill up – it is infinite.  So, even at a secular level it is a “god-sized hole”.

I was surprised one day in a men’s Bible study when one of the regulars began scoffing at the idea of a “God shaped hole in our heart”.  That wasn’t particularly unique with this particular man, as he was wont to be critical of anything that smacked of modern culture or even some of the more emergent theology.  He was particularly scornful of modern music, even Christian contemporary, and that, of course, is the main venue that people have heard about this void.  He was particularly adamant that mankind cannot have a “God sized hole”.

What was odd about the reaction of my friend in the Bible study is that, as you can see from the quotes above, this isn’t exactly a new idea.  Granted, all analogies break down at some point, but in all honesty, this one really has to be taken to an ultimate stretching point to become void.

Critics of the “God shaped hole in our heart” usually point out that God is infinite.  Man is finite.  God is limitless.  Man is limited.  Therefore, they contend, it is impossible to have either a God sized or God shaped hole in our hearts.

OK, but just because man is limited does not mean that as long as he live he doesn’t have infinite desires.  He has desires and longings that exist until the day he dies.  The Bible itself alludes to human thought about the longing for eternity.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

~ Ecc 3:11 (NIV)

The Bible also points out things that are insatiable.

 15The horseleach hath two daughters, crying, Give, give. There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough:

 16The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough. (Proverbs 30:15-16, King James Version)

Obviously, all these things will pass away one day, even the grave.  Yet, the language is that they are “never” satisfied.  In other words, they are infinite, at least as long as these things are in existence.

Therefore, on a smaller scale, they are a reflection of something much bigger.  If they were allowed to continue, they indeed would be infinite.

Is anything more infinite than God?  Strange question, I suppose, but it is worth thinking about.  Are there different levels of infinity?  I think that there are.  Calculus is built upon the premise that limits will be reached at different rates and times.  Much of the time, those limits are infinity or negative infinity.  So, one formula will “reach” its limit, infinity, faster than another.

Yet, there is something even more apt about the analogy.  The idea that it never fills up.  You cannot fill all of your longings with physical things because they do not last.  However, your longings do.  In other words, even if you manage to temporarily fill the void, usually by packing in “more” of whatever it might be, it will not last!

It is all temporary.  Those who want to play at semantics about infinity are really just missing the whole point, it would seem to me.  Only God can satisfy because only He is infinite.  Only God does not run out, go stale, deteriorate, etc.

 23Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (John 14:23, King James Version)

HWA used to speak of “the missing dimension” in people’s lives.  In particular, he spoke about the missing dimension in education a lot.  He also spoke about the missing dimension in sex.  In all cases, he spoke that people were trying to live without God, and so they were missing the most important part of a portion of life.  What is the difference between a “missing dimension”, a “void” and a “hole”?  Semantics, if you ask me.  They are all metaphors for people neglecting a spiritual nature that some would even go as far as to deny that it even exists.

As long as you are putting the wrong things into this void, you will never achieve lasting happiness, joy or fulfillment in your life.


  1. Whether you call it God-shaped hole or a missing dimension, this is a powerful analogy that has given many of us that "aha" moment. Analogies don't reach everybody, but this was has power for those it does reach. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Thanks for reading and commenting, Mike.

    I have never quite understood why some are critical of analogies just because they aren't "perfect". After all, if they really were perfect, they would no longer be analogies.