February 15, 2013

Filling that empty heart

Blaise Pascal is reported to have said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.” This is actually an edited version. Apparently the entire quote goes like this:
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. (“Pensees” by Blaise Pascal, Penguin Books, 1966. Pg. 75.)

The Creator is the object of our deepest desire because this is what He intended. Solomon briefly explains that we long after God because…

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Can I verify this void and that it can be satisfied only with God? For myself, certainly. Even though the Lord is in my life, there are occasions where I long for Him and want to leave here to be physically present with Him. I can say with the psalmist,

As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. (Psalm 42:1)

Today’s devotional says that even though we who believe in Jesus Christ speak of heaven as our home, it is only because God is there. Just as Isaac Watts wrote in his hymn, God is the true home of the human soul.

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

I look around me. I have all that I need and more, yet feel this thirst for God. I look at children and color, all lovely created things. I hear music and laughter, enjoy so much, yet that craving remains. If I did not know who I am longing for, I might try to fill that empty space with other stuff, but as the psalmist says, behind the craving is a deep homesickness. I crave God because He is my home.

Some say this homesickness is a powerful argument for the existence of God. It is built into the human heart because God put eternity there. Yet so many push it away or try to fill it with common and useless pursuits. People may not feel this longing until they allow themselves to, or unless they are weary and weak of trying to be satisfied with mere stuff. But when we acknowledge our helpless estate, the hunger is there, motivating us toward home. 

As the prodigal said, “I will arise and go to my Father.” He needed no money for that journey, only the humility to realize his soul’s bankruptcy and the wisdom to recognize that going home was his only satisfaction. 

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