Think on These Things: A God-shaped hole

Faith is much more of a way of being and a way of seeing life than it is a way of thinking

  • May. 26, 2013 11:00 a.m.

By Rev. Brian Krushel

Clearwater United and Church of St. Paul, Barriere

The God-shaped hole. Ever heard of it? Some people say that human beings are created with a God-shaped hole in them, that is, with some longing, some yearning some hunger that can only be satisfied by God.

While I can understand where these people are coming from, I cannot entirely agree with them. The idea of a God-shaped hole has some value as a metaphor for the spiritual quest, the search for meaning in life. It also has some value in explaining how many people look for that meaning by looking beyond themselves, beyond what they can do or achieve, beyond fame or fortune. But even in that, it is limited in what it can teach us about ourselves, God and the universe.

The idea of a God-shaped hole was first articulated by French mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal in the 17th century when we wrote: “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.”

Pascal may have been thinking of the famous prayer of Saint Augustine of Hippo, the fourth century bishop whose writings greatly influenced Western Christianity and philosophy, in which he said: “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”

The biggest reason I cannot quite whole-heartedly (pun intended!) embrace the idea of a God-shaped hole in every human being is the way in which it assumes that  God’s sole purpose is to solve all our problems. Experience has taught me that faith in God creates more problems than it solves.

Faith is much more of a way of being and a way of seeing life than it is a way of thinking. Faith is not merely believing certain statements to be true or following certain moral codes or rules. Faith is about living with a radical trust in God, the God (as St. Paul would say) “in whom we live and breathe and have our being”, the God who is in all and with all and beyond all, the God who is the source of Life and Love and Mercy and Compassion. Faith in that God helps us to see life as it really is, no delusions, no illusions.

That’s where the problems come in. The God of the God-shaped hole exists in a two dimensional, cause and effect universe and we look to that God to do nothing more than solve our problems. But that is not the world we live in. And God is not in the business of solving our problems. Instead God creates new ones, big ones, better ones. Problems that draw us out of our preoccupation with ourselves and into active concern for the welfare of our neighbour.

God also equips us to live into those problems so that we don’t just survive but thrive and flourish. But before that thriving and flourishing comes struggle and challenge.


Seeing the world as it really is, seeing the world as more than holes to be filled or problems to be solved, means having faith in a God that goes before us to create holy mischief and move us to acts of love, mercy and compassion so that all may know life in it’s fullest. Now that’s a God I can believe in, no problem!