A God-shaped hole: How to cope with your desires

If you’re an addict or alcoholic, you’ve probably explored many of these? But what do you do when you’re ready to live differently? More on filling up a God-shaped hole here…with a section at the end for your questions or comments.

Desire Can Be Unquenchable
Most alcoholics and addicts find meaningful lives in recovery through a process of surrender, self-examination, confession, amends, and service. What they inevitably discover is that they were too self-involved, living according to a primary purpose best summed up by “It’s all about me.” By putting their wants and needs above all else, they set themselves up for disappointment and frustration, fear and resentment, and the consequent need to heal their broken spirit the only way they know: with drugs and alcohol.

The biggest problem with living in desire — apart from its pure selfishness — is that it is so often unquenchable. A desire unfulfilled is frustrating, and a desire fulfilled simply leaves a desire for more. It seems as if desire itself is running unchecked, regardless of its current object. 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. And so the alcoholic/addict is confronted with the idea of a God-shaped hole: an inner void that no amount of money, prestige, success, or alcohol and drugs can fill.

Recognition Is The First Step
This sounds bleak but is 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, then it’s reasonable to stop attempting to fill it with things that paradoxically make it even bigger and deeper.

The term “God-shaped hole” is a paraphrase of a passage by the French writer Blaise Pascal, in which he writes the following: “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.”

Turn Over Your “Desire”
Interestingly, in 12-step recovery, the 3rd step says we should “turn our will and our lives” over to the care of God. One definition of the word “will” is “desire.” If we turn our desire over to the care of God, then by that choice we are saying that we are willing to experience His desire for us instead of our own.

The first thing that becomes apparent is that God’s desire for us doesn’t include drugs or alcohol, and because we are submitting our desires to Him, we find that we are free from the obsession (uncontrollable desire) to drink or use. As we go deeper into the principles of recovery and discover the unquenchable and harmful nature of our desires, we become willing to turn those over as well, and we become progressively more happy, joyous, and free. We also become useful.

Again paradoxically, when we live a life in which the God-shaped hole is regarded as a natural longing for a connection to God, we find we have a much better chance to attract those things that once seemed paramount: a partner, perhaps material success, and the respect of our peers. But these things are secondary and incidental to the cultivation of a relationship with God.

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