2020 has been quite the year! Never in my lifetime (almost a half-century!) have I ever experienced or witnessed the world juggling so many emotions simultaneously. Fear, anger, suspicion, grief and loneliness are just a few of the many feelings swirling around the globe and within our minds. In the midst of this cyclone, I’m inviting you to capture the word “lonely” for a moment. Before letting it go again, I’d like to offer an upside to this otherwise glum word…because lonely has an invitation of its own.
Have you ever heard the saying, “we have a ‘God-sized hole’ in our hearts”? The premise behind it is that there’s a need only God can fill; a longing in our hearts that He alone can satisfy. While the sentiment is truthful, this exact phrase isn’t actually found in Scripture.
The saying originates from Blaise Pascal’s book, Pensées , which was a defense of the Christian religion published in 1670. There, he wrote:
“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.”
Since then, the concept has taken on a life of its own and the succinct paraphrase “God-shaped hole” has frequently appeared in Christian and pop culture. It’s a great illustration that captures a visual in our minds.
Within Scripture, though, Ecclesiastes 3:11 offers us a similar idea:
He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
This verse also leads us to the conclusion that the human heart desires more than our human attempts can offer. We repeatedly fail to reach complete fulfillment, although we often work hard to attain that sense of wholeness through wealth, popularity, beauty and fame. But, this verse tells us that a greater yearning has been set in our hearts…and it’s the full companionship of God.
We are lonely for Him.
As we sit here, months after a pandemic began shutting down the world, slowing our pace and forcing us to be less distracted, I’m still asking God, What are You up to and how will You use this?
These two questions keep resonating as we wait for things to return to some sense of normalcy. Because He is the Creator and is sovereign over all, we can be sure that these events have flowed through His fingers. He has us in this time of waiting. What for? I keep wondering like a young, inquisitive child. I know He didn’t cause Covid, because He is the author of everything good and perfect. But, He did allow it for a reason. Perhaps He’s telling us something...
Are we seeking Him to understand?
When the officially-mandated shelter in place ended, so many of us thought we would go right back to the way things were. We were hopeful it would be the “quick fix” (even though it was a long few months) our culture has grown so accustomed to want and expect. When we realized this was going to be a much-longer season to endure, a friend suggested to me, “I don’t think we’re hearing the message yet. I don’t think we know the good that God is working.” I think she’s right. God is never sitting idle. He’s doing something right now, and I don’t want to miss it. And so, I must go to Him. It’s the only way I know how to not miss what He says. I’ve got to seek Him to hear his voice clearly.
Jesus showed us how.
In Luke chapter 5, Jesus is in the early stages of His ministry, performing miracles and leaving crowds in awe. People were eager to hear His teaching, see Him heal lifelong ailments and understand who He was (could He actually be the Messiah?!) After completely healing a man who had an advanced case of leprosy, the news spread and more people came to surround Him. In verse 16, we see how Jesus determined how to proceed in His ministry:
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16)
He chose to step away from the crowds, leave His eager students and put the healings on hold. He intentionally chose lonely places so He could hear His Father clearly. With complete focus, giving all attention and adoration, He submitted to His Father. And this verse further elaborates on Jesus’ frequency of communing with God in the stillness and quiet: often.
So, here we are. Literally on-hold in the world, more still than ever in a lifetime and possibly as lonely as ever with all the social distancing. Is God waiting for us to invite Him in? Could it be that He wants to reveal something? Could He be working to draw us closer? What is He up to?
I don’t know the answers, but He does. I don’t know what comes next, but God is already there. I don’t know how things will ultimately get better, but God is in the midst of doing something. I might not know much, but what I do know is that our hearts are longing for more. Perhaps now, more than ever. Is it possible that the biggest ailment today isn’t actually a virus?
Maybe it’s a heartache.
Stop. Be still. Pray. Often.
Our hearts are hopeful. Our God is too.
Father God, Scripture tells us that when we draw close to you, You also come closer to us. (James 4:8) Lord, stir our affection for You and give us the discipline to prioritize time with You. And as we commune, Lord, we ask You to start filling the places of our hearts that need You most. We trust your healing hands with the most tender parts. Today, right now, we invite You, Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.