Filling the Void
Discovering that nothing satisfies like Jesus.
by by Angela Dion
Everything in my life appeared perfect. My husband and I had been happily married for five years. We had a beautiful baby boy and many friends. My job as a vocational counselor was highly prestigious and paid a decent salary. Outwardly, it looked as though I was living the middle-class dream.
I wore my mask well; no one detected my misery. But in quiet moments, I asked myself, Should success feel so empty? Why am I so unhappy?
I hit bottom on my twenty-ninth birthday. I went out with some friends and had too much to drink. I pretended to have fun, but after coming home, all I could do was weep. A combination of alcohol and the realization that another year had passed and that my life still had no meaning sickened me.
I didn’t get it. I was raised to understand that because of my race and gender, I would always have to be better than everyone else in order to prosper. My need for approval came from a domineering alcoholic father who often told me, “You’re a nobody. You’re stupid. You’ll never amount to anything. You don’t measure up.” Because I believed what he said, I thought I needed to succeed in everything. I believed that if I achieved, I would live down his disappointment in me. But even with all of my working, I still felt hollow inside.
One evening I resolved to fill the void and, later that week, tried talking to friends about my longings. Their solution: “Let’s go out, have a few drinks. Everything will look brighter tomorrow.”
But my friends minimized my feelings. And why shouldn’t they? None of them knew God. As a counselor, I knew drinking wasn’t the solution. “Nah, I think I’ll stay home tonight,” I told them. “Maybe I need to see a counselor. I see it work for my clients. Maybe I can be helped in the same way.”
But peace wouldn’t come from a bottle or from paying someone to listen to my lamentations.
Returning to church
Finally, I discussed my dilemma with my husband. One day while we were driving home from dinner, I hesitantly said, “Marc, I’ve been feeling kind of weird lately, for lack of a better word. I don’t know. It seems as though we have everything, but I’m still empty. Have you ever thought about going to church?”
To my surprise, Marc paused and chuckled. “It’s funny you asked that. Actually, I have been thinking about church. Dr. White [his boss] keeps telling me about his church. He’s invited us to go. Let’s give it a try.”
That weekend we went to church for the first time since our wedding six years prior. Before that, neither of us had been to church since our preteen years.
At that church I encountered a community of purpose-driven people who had filled their own void with peace. I didn’t ask anyone their secret; I was still pretending to have it all together. But looking for direction, I did listen intently to every message the pastor preached. A few weeks later, I found my answer.
The pastor spoke from the pulpit. “Have you ever felt just empty inside?” My throat tightened, and I shifted uncomfortably in my seat.
He continued, “Do you have a void in your heart? An emptiness? Let me suggest to you that if you don’t know Jesus, you have a God-shaped void.”
The pastor was speaking to me directly. As he kept preaching, he unlocked the door to my deepest self. “You are a sinner,” he said. “The first step to filling the void is admitting that.”
I thought, Me? A sinner? But I’m a good person. I don’t rob banks or kill people. I didn’t realize then that the Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
After so many years of trying my hardest, I learned that God requires perfection. Yet I could never reach God’s perfect standard with good deeds. To God, my “righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). No wonder I felt empty.
The pastor proceeded to present the good news about Jesus Christ with Scripture to support it. His message went something like this:
“Jesus died for your past, present, and future sins (1 Peter 3:18). He is the only mediator between your sins and God (1 Timothy 2:5). If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you’ll be saved (Romans 10:9). It’s that simple to get rid of the void.”
I believed the pastor and prayed along with him at the end of the sermon. It really was that simple. A huge burden lifted, and the ball and chain of living the good life broke in pieces.
Sharing the joy
As we were walking out of the service, I stopped in the parking lot. I couldn’t contain it any longer. “I did it!” I excitedly blurted out to my husband,
He laughed and replied, “Me too!”
We each understood exactly what the other meant. We embraced. I cried.
Our lives haven’t been the same since that day. We have a stronger marriage with God in charge. My relationship with my son improved. I no longer view my family as a trophy of my success but as a cherished gift from God. I’ve developed true, rich, God-honoring friendships. Most important, I know unconditional love.
Alcohol, work, doctors, anti-depressants, good friends, good spouses, good deeds even a good church couldn’t fill the emptiness. I learned that a God-shaped void that He created only He can fill.