The Vacuum that is our Heart

vacuum-heart-1When I was a young boy I drew lots of pictures of people with gaping holes in either their eye sockets or chest or both. This was to communicate a feeling I had and realized all people have. It is a feeling, a longing, a need for more. A need for meaning.

Even secular culture recognizes that we have a desire for more. See for example the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart,” and U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I Am Looking For.” Or look at the tragic deaths of Larry Bias and Don Rogers, who in 1986 both died just days apart from each other, both overdosed on cocaine. Larry Bias was the second overall NBA draft pick but died before he could play a single professional game. Don Rogers was an NFL player and recognized as an “All-American,” yet his career and life were cut short. Typically, people would think these men had everything; surely, they would be happy. Yet, even they were seeking a new and better high.

This need or thirst is quite satisfactorily explained by Scripture. It tells us that originally everything was good (Gen. 1:31). But, sadly, not for very long. Chaos and curse ensued from sin in the garden. Separation from God, each other, and creation. The world, and all in it, left groaning for redemption (Rom. 8:22).

The whole of humanity has a vacuum in their heart and that is it. It sucks in all it can, as Calvin famously said, “the human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols.” (Institutes). And yet as Augustine said, Our hearts our restless until they rest in Him (Confessions).

Other voices echo this same truth:

Andrew Delbanco:
“We live in an age of unprecedented wealth, but… the ache for meaning goes unrelieved” (The Real American Dream).

Blaise Pascal:
“What is it then that this desire and this inability proclaim to us, but that there was once in man a true happiness of which there now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself” (Pensees).

Alexis de Tocqueville:
“The incomplete joys of this world can never satisfy [man’s] heart. Man is the only creature to exhibit both a natural disgust for existence and an overwhelming desire to exist: he despises life and fears nothingness” (Democracy in America).

C.S. Lewis:
“Now, if we are made for heaven, the desire for our proper place will be already in us, but not yet attached to the true object, and will even appear as the rival of that object. And this, I think, is just what we find… If a transtemporal, transfinite good is our real destiny, then any other good on which our desire fixes must be in some degree fallacious, must bear at best only a symbolical relation to what will truly satisfy… [All the good and beauty we enjoy] are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited” (The Weight of Glory).

And Scripture certainly rings out this truth as well. Yet, it also gives us the answer. Jesus said, Come to me and I will give you rest (Matt. 11:28 see also Ps. 42:1-2; 63:1; Is. 12:3; 44:3; 55:1-3; Jn. 4:14; 7:37). Peter tells us that we are waiting for the new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Pet. 3:11-13). We are waiting for our every longing to be meant as we meet our Lord face to face. We are waiting for what was marred in creation to be restored.

Jesus, by His wrath absorbing sacrifice, enables a way for restored relationship with God. Jesus destroyed the work of the devil (1 John 3:8, Col. 2:20) and is making all things new (Rev. 21:5). We eagerly await the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 15:49) when we will finally know the peace and rest that Scripture so often talks about and we so often long for.

This is our longing, this is eternal life: that we know God, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom He sent (Jn. 17:3).

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 9 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

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