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By: Rick Fannin
The God-Shaped Hole in Your Heart
Do you ever feel like something is missing from your life? Do you ever think that if I only get "this," then maybe I will be finally happy? However, once you have it, the emptiness is only filled for a moment, and then again, you are left looking for the next thing to fill the void.
Regarding this void and emptiness, C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:
"If I find myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." 
Many people lead lives of quiet desperation, trying to fill the God-shaped hole and cover the pain with shopping, eating, and a million distractions. But addicts and alcoholics are physically predisposed to escape or numb themselves in ways that go directly into a downward spiral of self-destruction.
Carl Jung wrote, to Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson, that "craving for alcohol" is "the equivalent on a low level of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness," famously concluding the letter "spiritus contra spiritum." It loosely translates to "a spiritual experience to counter addiction to the spirits (alcoholism)." Spiritus in Latin means both alcoholic beverages, i.e., spirits, and the highest religious experience. In relating this simple phrase, Jung confirmed for Bill that the A.A. program aimed at spiritual development and spiritual awakening, as a treatment for alcoholism, was the correct direction.
Jung's Latin phrase "spiritus contra spiritum" is just a more sophisticated way of saying you'll never get that round peg to fill that square hole completely. A God-shaped hole is designed for God. The bottle is unfit to perform the task as is food, shopping, video games, work achievements, vacations, purchases, and meaningless sex. Filling this hole with the wrong things enlarges it. It needs more than the fleeting gratification of a moment's peace and numbness. There is only one sustainable solution that will fill the emptiness inside of us.
This is why the overarching philosophy of A.A. is identifying alcoholism as just a symptom of spiritual disease, and A.A. proclaims that:
"When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically" [1, p. 64]
The concept of a God-shaped hole dates back much earlier than Jung to famous philosopher and mathematician Pascal, who wrote in his Pensee:
"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" 
The emptiness plagues us with an unquenching thirst to fill this void. As we struggle to quench this thirst, we may discover many things that appear to do so. However, this euphoric exhilaration is short-lived and a cheap substitute for an authentic spiritual experience. Once the short-lived euphoria starts to fade, desperate, empty, and thirsty, we must either consume more and more to chase the euphoria, or they must find an alternative, more powerful way, way of achieving a state of satisfaction.
From personal experience, I can tell you how unnerving that feeling of emptiness is and the accompanying restlessness, irritability, and discontent with life. I have shoved anything and everyone into my hole. Each would provide a momentary sense of satisfaction. However, they quickly drained back out, and I was left feeling empty again but with the accompanying feelings of guilt, shame, and hopelessness. The bottle and cocaine became my quick fix to the emptiness that I felt inside. However, the use of these substances created a world much more painful than the emptiness that I was attempting to escape. Alcohol and drugs are "cunning, baffling and powerful!" They take over our senses with a relentless craving that no human power can relieve. We are powerless.
My addiction kidnapped my heart, my soul, and my mind. Thank God that He will leave the 99 to go after the one. God's relentless pursuit of me, and the accompanying pain of addiction, motivated me to finally fill the emptiness with the only sustainable solution known to man, a relationship with Jesus Christ and alignment with God's will for my life.
The story of Jesus and the woman at the well describes this thirst, and the only thing that will satisfy us is an encounter and a relationship with Jesus Christ, as seen in the verse below.
Jacob's well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." The woman said to him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock." Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water." – John 4:6-15
God is the God of second chances, and he wants you to fill the longing, the hole in your heart, with him. The enemy, Satan, wants us to continue searching, selling us lies of the things that might satisfy the emptiness that we have inside.
Even if what we are doing is good and we are mostly happy, without God, the hole will enlarge over time, and the void it creates will seem like a vast, bottomless canyon with an eternal consequence. There is a longing in every heart that beats for a relationship with Him. He created that desire, the "hole," so we will rely on Him for everything and stand to testify to what he has done for us. He is the perfect fit for every heart, as seen in the verse below.
Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end." – Ecclesiastes 3:11
God can help us if we seek him, and with God, all things are possible. However, the Holy Spirit does not seem interested in making it possible for us to drink in moderation in this life, he will help us stay away from alcohol just for today.
Jesus' command captures the idea:
"For do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself." -Matthew 6:34
We learn that our recovery is one day at a time, and the only way that we can abstain from drugs or alcohol is by the daily surrender of our self-will each morning. Then live that day as closely aligned with God's will and strive each moment to be rid of selfish, self-centered self-will actions.
Bill W, the co-founder of A.A., offered a profound picture of God's saving grace for the alcoholic within the chapter Bill's Story in the A.A. Big Book. Each of us needs to commit ourselves to God before recovery can begin. We need to acknowledge that we are powerless by ourselves; turn our addiction over to God. Only our good and gracious God can keep us from drinking.
"There I humbly offered myself to God, as I then understood Him, to do with me as He would. I placed myself unreservedly under His care and direction. I admitted for the first time that of myself I was nothing; that without Him I was lost. I ruthlessly faced my sins and became willing to have my new-found Friend take them away, root and branch. I have not had a drink since" [1, p. 13]
Maintenance of Your Spiritual Condition
Here are some spiritual tools you can use to stay connected to God daily. But of course, you should find what works for you. By having these areas covered, you can devote far less energy to struggling to maintain your spiritual condition.
Of course, you may slip up. It's just like exercise: You know it's good for you. You know you'll feel better. But you don't always do it. One of the best ways to avoid a slip-up or a relapse is to build a formal daily recovery plan. One of the best ways to maintain your Spiritual connection is by incorporating these items as part of your daily recovery plan. Just like exercise, repetition builds muscles, and the daily repetition of these items will help you build Spiritual muscles so that you are strong enough, through God, to resist temptation.
Daily Morning Prayers
When we ease into our day and start our day right, things seem to run much smoother. Start each morning with a prayer. It can be your own prayer, or if prayer is something you are not quite used to, you can recite some fixed prayers to start your day, such as The Serenity Prayer or The Lord's Prayer. Personally, I utilize the 3rd Step prayer as found in the A.A. Big Book chapter How it Works:
"God, I offer myself to you, to build with me and do with me as you will. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do your will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help you of Your Power, Your Love, Your Way of Life. May I do Your will always!" [2, p. 63]
People struggling with anxiety over things they're powerless to affect rarely have a daily prayer and meditation practice. Prayer is talking to God. Meditation is listening for a response from God. Meditation is simply sitting quietly and learning to still your mind, and in doing so, we often hear a quiet, still little whisper of a voice inside of us, our Holy Spirit, which provides the solution so that we may "intuitively know how to handle situations which use to baffle us." Psalm 46:10 tells us:
"Be still and know that I am God!"
The practice of meditation is proven to help you better control your emotions, be less impulsive, and improve overall well-being. Meditation can also help you to unclutter any dysfunctional thoughts from the truth and from God's truth. Learning to control our mind is important to our recovery and strengthens our spiritual connection with God, as seen in the verse below.
"And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don't think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ's body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other." – Romans 12:1-5
Daily Spiritual Reading
The practice of following prayer and meditation with some careful spiritual reading is powerful. It grounds your day and provides you with powerful knowledge and wisdom. How can you know God's will without knowing God's word? By studying God's word, you begin to know God better and learn what His will is for your life. Sometimes, the things you read each morning have a profound way of providing insight regarding any current struggles you are facing in life. God's word is powerful, as seen in the verse below.
"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" – Hebrews 4:12
Throughout the Day
Use various tools and techniques to maintain or restore serenity. The Serenity Prayer is a powerful tool that can help you to get through difficult parts of the day. Personally, I like the long version of the Serenity Prayer, as shown below.
"God grant me the Serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time.
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is,
Not as I would like it.
Trusting that he will make all things right,
If I surrender to his will.
That I may be reasonably happy in this world
And supremely happy in the next."
This prayer helps to remind me of many things. It reminds me that I am not God and that I should not use my self-will to try to force things that I cannot change. Acceptance becomes my answer to all of the problems that I cannot change. It reminds me to have faith and that faith without works is dead, so I pray for God to give me the courage to change the things I can. My use of meditation can help to still my mind, get me out of my emotional mind, so that I am able to find the wisdom to know what I need to accept and what I need to take action to change.
This long version reminds me to live one day at a time. I do not need to worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have it's own worries. My focus needs to be in the present, and by living in the present, I can feel the full presence of God working in my life. I love the line, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, and this has been so true in my life. This line reminds me of Romans 8:28, which says:
"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them" – Romans 8:28
This line about hardship as a pathway to peace, and the reminder of Romans 8:28, help me to accept even the things that I do not like, as I know all things work together for Good. It doesn't say all the things I do right, all the things that go my way, or all the things that I like; it says ALL things work together for Good. Some of the best things that have happened in my life were a result of pain, heartbreak, failure, and mistakes. This reminder helps me to put things in perspective and remember that I only see things through my perspective, but God sees things from a much greater perspective. This helps me trust that He will make all things right when I surrender to his will and helps me remember that the goal isn't to be perfectly happy today but eternal happiness with Him in heaven.
The other important Spiritual tool is the use of Step 10. Step 10 reminds us that "When we are wrong, promptly admit it." None of us are perfect. However, we continue to strive for spiritual perfection. No matter how hard I try, I still have not been able to walk on water. When I make a mistake, and I often do, my focus must be on doing the next right thing. Admitting my faults to myself, to God, and to others is a foundational skill of not only my recovery but also of my Spiritual connection.
Regular Recovery-focused Group Attendance
Opinions vary on frequency, but regular and frequent attendance of 12-step groups is the rule, not the exception. The experience of millions is that A.A. is the most effective approach, and A.A. meetings are available nearly everywhere. Other options include Rick Warren's Celebrate Recovery (C.R.). I help to lead a Celebrate Recovery at my church, Garden City Church in Columbus. We offer both in-person and zoom, so if you do not have a C.R. near you, check out our Facebook page for a link to the Zoom C.R. group.
For me, I do both, but I attend A.A. and C.R. for two very different reasons. I love attending C.R., and it helps to remind me that I am not God, fills me with his word, as it relates to recovery, and I have formed some of my closest friendships within C.R. However, as much as I love C.R., at times, it can be too "fluffy" for me. That is why I continue to attend A.A. As for me, I need A.A. because it is gritty and dirty, and provides me with the raw reminder of what addiction looks like, feels like, and the damage it has on our lives and the lives of those around us. Without this reminder, I often get what I call "recovery amnesia." Recovery amnesia is when I begin to forget how bad the bad was and forget what I had to do each and every day to scratch, claw, and climb my way out of my last rock bottom moment. The moment I forget that I am an alcoholic and an addict is when I once again begin to act like an addict and alcoholic. For me, I need both C.R. and A.A. as part of my regular recovery plan.
Be Of Service Daily
As part of step 12, being of service to others is another of the foundational maintenance steps from the 12-step framework. However, this being of service is also a Biblical principle. If I were to summarize the New Testament into two words, it would be "Love" and "Service."
The story of the disciples and Jesus at the last supper is a powerful story of love and service. Jesus knew everything that was about to happen to him. He knew the pain and torture that he was about to endure. Then, after telling the disciples about the body of Christ that is to be broken and the blood of Christ that will be shed, Jesus washed the disciples' feet. With everything that had to be on his mind, His focus was on teaching the disciples the importance of humility, love, and service to others.
"Jesus knew the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he showed them the full extent of his love…Jesus knew that he had come from God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him." - John 13:1-5.
In the story of Jesus and the miraculous catch of fish, Jesus discusses with Peter, and the disciples, about love and service in the set of verses below.
"When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?"
"Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."
Again, Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"
He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."
The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my sheep." – John 21:15-17
Jesus was the ultimate example of love and service, and Jesus showed us the full extent of his love by the loving sacrifice that he paid to purchase us as His own. By serving others, you demonstrate your love for the ones that you serve. The Bible instructs us of this love in the following verse:
"Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." John 15:12-13
We should strive for our life to be modeled after that of Jesus. Jesus is the only one that is perfect, and His life is a standard that we can never perfect. We should strive for Spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection. It pleases God when we model our lives after the life of Jesus, as shown in biblical instructions below.
"Jesus said, "I have set an example that you should do as I have done for you." John 15:15
Develop a servant's vision for your life by knowing God sent you to serve others and that you will answer to God and be rewarded for your service
Colossians 3:23 tells us that "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." In serving others in this way, you may one day hear
"Well done, good and faithful servant." – Matthew 25:21
An engineer for Henry Ford once said, "You cannot manage it if you do not measure it." It is important to include a dedicated time, at the end of your day, to formally keep score in how you did in your recovery and your Spirituality that day. Review the day, and identify what went well and what you could improve on. You can let go of any anger or resentment you may still have from the day during this time. For me, if I go to bed with resentment on my mind, I tend to wake up with a relapse on my mind.
Finally, close out your day, thank God for your day, keep you clean and sober once again, and for all of the things you have to be grateful. What you focus on amplifies, and if you end your day focused on the things that you have to be grateful for, then God will amplify these things in your life.
|||C. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 1952.|
|||A. Anonymous, The Story of How Many Thoughts of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism, New York, NY: Alcoholics Anonymous Work Services, Inc. , 2001.|
|||B. Pascal, Pascal's Pensees 1623-1662, New York: E.P. Dutton, 1958.|