The “God-shaped vacuum”

There is an oft-used quote that has been mistakenly attributed to Blaise Pascal, C.S. Lewis, and Augustine, which states:

“There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

The reality appears to be that none of them actually said this, and that this quote is actually based on a grander thought posed by Pascal’s Pensees. Regardless, this statement has become an engrained concept in the heart of Evangelical Christianity. Herein lies a problem.

It is assumed that a person with such a vacuum in their heart, once filled by “God” at salvation, is blissfully fulfilled until they are called into the hereafter. Ok, maybe not “blissfully.” But, such a person should feel complete and fulfilled as a result of having that chasm filled by the God of the universe.

So, it is with great trepidation that a Christian may admit, years into the process, that he or she has reached a place of emptiness or despair in their journey-perhaps sensing that something is missing. But, what guilt accompanies such a claim? Who does this person confide in? How do they take this great emptiness to God, if God is the very One who was supposed to fill the hole in their heart?

Illustrations like the above one imply that once we reach the other side, from “unsaved” to “saved,” we just have to “wait it out” until we die. I believe that a glaring omission in evangelism today is the reality of not just what we are saved from, but what we are called into. We are taught, perhaps unwittingly, that all we need is the ticket in to Heaven-all we need to do is pray the “Sinner’s prayer,” as if that is where the story ends. Unfortunately, what this implies is that everything else that happens afterward is just a matter of inevitability; just keep “showing up” and the work of “being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ” will happen more and more as you plod along.

For the “plodding” Christian, duty is a way of life. After all, there are expectations. I should be reading my Bible daily. I should be praying. I should be serving. Christianity becomes a checklist. Many of us find great “success” in our duty and accolade from our peers who only aspire to be as dutiful as we are. Yet, at some point, an ache begins to be noticed at our core. A great emptiness sets in as our assessment of our duty fails to yield the life the Scriptures tell us we should be experiencing.

Why does this catch us unaware?

Perhaps, it is because the wrong expectation was set for us. Perhaps, it is because we didn’t expect anything greater from the “Greater” that is within us. If we were to revisit the illustration from above, maybe it should look more like this:

Now, this picture may not be the exact journey that every Christian should anticipate, but it does reflect my story as I understand it. 1 John 2:13 addresses people at all stages in their faith: Children, Young Men (adolescents), and Fathers. Every believer should understand that there are stages of maturity to grow into. Every believer should know what Intimacy with God looks like, and what it means to Abide. Every Christian should hear that He has a distinct design for them, and that as they grow into it and see it empowered by God, He will begin to infuse them with Authority. Authority paves the way to Calling. God-given, inspired, and empowered Calling leads to Fruitfulness.

What a robust picture the Scriptures paint of the life we are to expect as His sons and daughters. Is it any wonder, then, that we feel so unfulfilled when that life isn’t there?

Are you a miserable Christian, trying to find fulfillment in duty? Does that mean that we can discount duty? No, of course not. But, duty should transition into living authentically as He designed us to, as we live out the role and gifting He made us to be fruitful in.

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