HAPPINESS SERIES - DESTINATION HAPPINESS PART 4 "The Void"

When is the last time you were so hungry you could eat anything?  I know in our culture most of us, including myself, don’t know what it’s like to starve; but most of us have been “really” hungry at times.   It is difficult, at least for me, to be picky or stay healthy with what I eat when I’m really famished.  Why?  Because I’m so hungry that I’ll eat anything to satisfy my hunger!  Such is life and how we are designed as humans.  We are made with an internal hunger that needs and longs to be satisfied.  It’s a deep human desire we all are created with.  

In our search to satisfy this hunger one of the ways we are fulfilled is in human relationships.  People play a vital role in our life.  We are meant to be in relationship with others, to love and to be loved.  This is good.  Yet, just as this can be good, so to, can we often find ourselves hurt, broken or unsatisfied by human relationships.  Have you ever felt this way?  I have!  Our longing to be in relationship, to be loved, to be wanted or needed gets twisted with our deep desire to be satisfied.  And we begin to stuff our emptiness with…people.  

This is what I call the “people sized hole”…and It’s a destination where we’ve all landed hoping it would be paradise!  

Destination Happiness Part #4 People Sized Hole

The People Size Hole is often a destination that is tricky to explain, but it’s certainly one worth pointing out as a destination hot-spot.  We must ask ourselves, can one person or a group of people fulfill me or make me happy?  The answer is both, yes and no.  In short, relationships are vital to our happiness, but they aren’t the apex of it.  

The myth that someone can be our source of joy and fulfillment falls short of reality. How often has someone disappointed us? How often have human relationships (even good ones) fallen short of our expectations?  We have all been on both ends of being let down by someone or and letting others down, ourselves.  It’s part of being human.  Some of us have experienced more hurt than others, but we have all encountered the fragility of humanity.  It’s even more eye opening when we realize that the people we love the most and who love us the most are actually, like us, imperfect.  

Imperfection is not a reason to give up on people.  Rather, it’s the reason we should recognize that a person (or people) can’t be a means of satisfying of our deepest longings. 

Many times we see the reality of imperfection in someone we love come to the forefront in marriage. What takes place in marriage (even the best of marriages) is two imperfect people live together in an imperfect world.  Often times people think, ”When I marry this person, he or she will change, will become the person who will make me happy. This person will meet all of my needs and desires!”  

Disillusionment sets in when we realize that the person we marry falls short of our expectations. This of course doesn’t diminish the great things about marriage or the person we marry; it’s simply the reality of it. 

My wife, Gretchen, would agree to this in our own marriage.  At times, especially early on, disillusionment set in and our expectations were left unmet. Gretchen and I both had an eye opening experience when we realized that our amazing love for one another was imperfect and fell short of “completing” the other.  And even with the best of intentions, we often fell short of each other’s expectations. 

I must admit, on my best day, I can’t complete anyone. I can certainly help, but I can’t complete someone, and neither can you. And on her best day, Gretchen can’t complete me.  It’s impossible for a human to complete another human.  Completion is left up to someone much greater then me.  Marriage or a person doesn’t complete us…God does.

In our years of counseling and preparing couples for marriage we have seen The People Sized Hole destination creep in.  Many times in life whether it be a spouse, a parent, a friend, a boyfriend or girl friend, we find ourselves wanting more from that person than they can give. Certainly we need people and people need us. As stated we are created to be in relationship with people but we aren’t created to complete people. 

I’ve seen many people who have lots of friends still feel a void.  I can remember a point in my life when, being around friends, I was happy; yet when everyone left I’d lie in bed alone at night and feel empty inside.  My “happiness” seemed to fade away once I was alone, with myself.  How could I have friends and yet feel “alone” and empty? How could the people I liked the most not fulfill me? How could a dating relationship not satisfy me?  I can also remember being surprised that loneliness didn’t leave once I married Gretchen. How could I be lonely, yet in love?  Married couples face this reality all the time and they don realize it.  Often they simply keep trying to fill the void with something or someone else. I eventually came to a place where I was willing to ask the question…what or who can fulfill me?

Let me tell you two true stories that are similar but with different outcomes. Both of these stories consist of two loving married couples. Sadly both marriages were hit with tragedy; both husbands were faced with a wife diagnosed with a terminal illness. Both illnesses were different, both had no immediate timeline; but both faced a long road ahead with an obvious ending. 

Both men tried hard to see their wife through this tough time. The difficulty and the weight of things wore on both men. Both were faced with the reality that their spouse could no longer love them back the way they were use to; the way they thought completed them. This would be difficult for anyone. One of the men began to fill the void left by his spouse with a life of lies while the other began his search elsewhere.  One he fell into the destination of the people trap, which began by partying with friends while his wife lay at home sick. We all need friend, but the friends were filling a place only God could fill. These friendships led him to fill the void left by his wife with another woman. His void was big and endless! He continued, all while married, to seek another life. By the time his wife was dying, his family was destroyed by his actions and by the grief of the loss of a great woman. Sadly, it didn’t end well because his attempt to fill the void fell short and left him, and everyone else, in more pain. 

The other man however began to seek comfort of his pain and grief by finding good friends who invited him to fill his void with something more substantial. His search led him to the edge of the cliff of possibilities where he was faced with the reality that his void was so deep that only God could carry him across the abyss he faced. He and his family, although suffering, found happiness in the process. The love he showed his wife until her death brought joy, hope and peace to him and his children. Both men experienced great pain, yet one of them found happiness in the process. Why?

You may or may not have heard it said that we all have a God shaped hole in us. The meaning behind this is good.  It basically means that we all have a hole that only God can fill.  This is a good analogy, but I think it falls short. 

First, I don’t think we have a hole in our heart, but we have a void…a deep emptiness.  We have an endless void of emptiness that swallows up anything we attempt to fill it with. The void is like looking out into space…it’s further than the eye can see and more than the mind can imagine. To call it a hole would only limit it’s size. Second, to suggest that God fills a hole, falls short of the reality of who God is. God is much bigger and greater than a hole.  God is vast, beyond, bigger than our minds can imagine and He is more than willing and able to fill our void . God doesn’t want to plug a hole He wants to fill it up; to encompass our soul. The void is so big that only one who is larger than our void can over-match its capacity and take its place in our life.

Throughout our lives we all face times that feel impossible. Whether it’s a situation staring us down, or the sheer reality of the emptiness in our lives, we can feel like our situation is insurmountable.  This can overwhelm us.  Scripture says, “for with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). It is here we grasp the Truth; the reality that only God can fill the impossible void in our life and be the source of our “completeness,” our, “happiness.” 

The void we want others to fill is always left lacking. The void we try to use money, things or recognition to fill, remains half-empty.  Our attempts to fill our emptiness and to find happiness in the world must come to an end. 

Authentic happiness begins when we realize we need something greater than ourselves, to fully be ourselves.  God alone satisfies. 

-Paul