A God-shaped hole: How to cope with your desires

What can you do when you feel an inner void that no amount of money, prestige, success, or alcohol and drugs can fill? How to live a more useful, meaningful life here.

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How Many Ways Are There to Fill A God-Shaped Hole?

If you’re an addict or alcoholic, you’ve probably explored many of these? But what do you do when you’re ready to live differently? More on filling up a God-shaped hole here…with a section at the end for your questions or comments.

Desire can be unquenchable

Most alcoholics and addicts find meaningful lives in recovery through a process of surrender, self-examination, confession, amends, and service. What they inevitably discover is that they were too self-involved, living according to a primary purpose best summed up by “It’s all about me.” By putting their wants and needs above all else, they set themselves up for disappointment and frustration, fear and resentment, and the consequent need to heal their broken spirit the only way they know: with drugs and alcohol.

The biggest problem with living in desire — apart from its pure selfishness — is that it is so often unquenchable. A desire unfulfilled is frustrating, and a desire fulfilled simply leaves a desire for more. It seems as if desire itself is running unchecked, regardless of its current object. When this level of soul sickness is reached, alcohol and drugs may be the only way to numb the pain—until they contribute to the problem more than they alleviate it. And so the alcoholic/addict is confronted with the idea of a God-shaped hole: an inner void that no amount of money, prestige, success, or alcohol and drugs can fill.

Recognition is the first step

This sounds bleak but is actually good news. Once the unquenchable nature of this void is recognized—the point of surrender—then we are ready to acknowledge its shape. And if we are willing to entertain the notion that it’s a God-shaped hole, then it’s reasonable to stop attempting to fill it with things that paradoxically make it even bigger and deeper.

The term “God-shaped hole” is a paraphrase of a passage by the French writer Blaise Pascal, in which he writes the following: “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.”

Turn over your “desire”

Interestingly, in 12-step recovery, the 3rd step says we should “turn our will and our lives” over to the care of God. One definition of the word “will” is “desire.” If we turn our desire over to the care of God, then by that choice we are saying that we are willing to experience His desire for us instead of our own.

The first thing that becomes apparent is that God’s desire for us doesn’t include drugs or alcohol, and because we are submitting our desires to Him, we find that we are free from the obsession (uncontrollable desire) to drink or use. As we go deeper into the principles of recovery and discover the unquenchable and harmful nature of our desires, we become willing to turn those over as well, and we become progressively more happy, joyous, and free. We also become useful.

Again paradoxically, when we live a life in which the God-shaped hole is regarded as a natural longing for a connection to God, we find we have a much better chance to attract those things that once seemed paramount: a partner, perhaps material success, and the respect of our peers. But these things are secondary and incidental to the cultivation of a relationship with God.

About the author
Liliann Reid is a recovering addict focused on helping others understand the world of drug addiction and eating disorders through her firsthand experience. She is blessed to have found sobriety through a Christian based drug rehab program.


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  1. I am confounded–and frankly, shocked–that no one cared enough to even bother to respond to either of the posts made herein by ‘Roy’!!! The first was way back in 2015 (that one going unanswered and ignored is in and of itself inexcusable for an addict reaching out for help, especially since his post indicated clearly spiritual inquiry) and YET ANOTHER–almost identical–more recently in 2017?!
    Is this a site ONLY for believers?! WWJD?! Would Jesus have closed his laptop and sighed and looked at his watch and said “Let’s call it a day” and not given another thought to ‘Roy’ or his addiction or life or well-being after he RETURNED TWO YEARS LATER still wondering how to find God?!?!
    One wouldn’t think it unreasonable to assume that this is a forum wherein ANY ADDICT–Godless or not–in fact, especially the Godless–can expect to find support, encouragement and advice, but by ignoring Roy’s obvious spiritual yearning and the Divine opportunity/Sacred responsibility God obviously ordained you for by putting him in your path not once, but TWICE–MY GOD!–the man came crawling back again TWO YEARS LATER, still seeking guidance regarding his never-acknowledged questions from his first original 2015 post–it has been shamefully revealed that it is not!
    You’d do well to repent relentlessly and post a profoundly moving reply to ‘Roy’ attempting to persuade him of God’s supernatural, miraculous, transformational grace (assuming ‘Roy’ is still with us–and God forbid he’s not).
    ROY: If you see this, post something. I’ll check back periodically to see if you have. I would like to converse with you.

  2. When my husband and I first got together I knew he had a past with drug addiction but I didn’t think anything of it. When I was pregnant with our youngest (after a hellish series of him not coming home and horrible fights…and discovering he was talking to other women…) he told me that he had a relapse. It was meth. He promised me he would never do it again. A year after our youngest was born, we eloped. Things weren’t perfect, but we love each other. Then he had another relapse and I have never been so confused, hurt, and scared in my life. My husband became a monster and obviously a liar. I felt like I was always going to make him mad with something I did or said… it’d become embarrassing in public and emotionally abusive. That’s when I turned to God. I have never prayed like I did during that time. God intervened more than once in our aguements and that is the only reason why I stuck it out. Since then I have grown stronger in my faith, but my husband has gone back and forth. My youngest is now 3 and while my husband says he believes in God and prays and he does devotions with me, he refuses church and is still using. He says he is a “functioning addict”. He doesn’t tell me when he used and sometimes it is hard to tell. Sometimes he is so aggressive about it and says it’s not my place to understand it. Its caused a lot of trust issues, a lot of anxiety in me and my oldest son (who doesn’t know why he has anxiety or that his dad is an addict). My oldest son is interested in growing in his faith and I am working on it with him… but I guess my questions lie in what do I do? I keep praying and feel that Gods answer is to walk in faith. Fear keeps calling my name… what if’s get the best of me. I never know what mood my husband will be in and can’t count on him to be emotionally supportive. He tells me that I better never put him in treatment because he couldn’t handle it and would end up completely losing it. Sometimes he tells me he does it every morning and I can’t tell the difference so it’s my issue not his. Sometimes he tells me that he doesn’t do it very often. Sometimes he tells me that it’s what he likes and I can choose to leave or stay but I can’t take the kids until I am on my feet. The other night he tried to kick me out and I refused to leave knowing he wasn’t thinking clearly… I ended up bawling on the floor and he had absolutely no care for the pain it wasn’t causing me in front of my kids. He just says I am the unhappy one. I am not a bad wife… I’m not perfect but damn it I love my family. We have fought so hard to get this far and I just do t understand how this could be it?? Am I supposed to just give in and move on… allowing my kids to grow up with a split home (and we all know the drugs and abusive behaviors would be way worse if I wasn’t around). I can’t do it. I have too much invested emotionally to just turn around. I keep holding on… keep thinking if nothing else I can stay and give the kids the best life they can have… I can always leave after they’ve grown up if I have to… but that’s not really ok either. I am so confused, so hurt, and so lonely. Nobody understands and my husband has talked so badly about me (in an attempt to make me the bad guy I guess) that I can’t even keep lasting friendships… which is something else he blames me for… I’m telling you sometimes he is just downright cruel. Other times he wipes tears from my eyes and says he knows God put me in his life… he is my best friend again in those moments and the man I want to be married to… but it’s such a sensitive thing…any little thing can trigger him to go the other way again. I just don’t know what to do. My only answer at this point is to walk in faith… please just pray for my husband, children, and me.

  3. No addiction is greater than the omni present god….18 years of alcoholism redeemed and delivered from this affliction thanks to the blood of the lamb….3 yeara clean and healed….praise GOD…..

  4. God seems unwilling to fill the”hole” either. Belief doesn’t fill it, faith doesn’t fill it. How can something spiritual and, consequently, hidden
    Really help. Where does the ability to surrender to and trust completely, someone I’ve never met, come from. How can I find something real and personal ? Something more than ancient writings and religious rituals. What little faith I may once have had has almost completely evaporated. I have no sense or actual experience of being loved. I have never even heard God speak my name. How does it matter how much God loves me if I can’t actually have ANY of it. How do you actually recieve anything by faith? Recieve by faith seems to be another way of saying do without. I am trying to recover from my third divorce and much of the time I don’t think I will make it. I have “self medicated” in just about every way possible to cope with a mountain of rejection and pain. I can’t find any relief in promises, or scriptures, or church services. Everything points either to something 2000 years in the past or some unknown point in the future. Where is love today, where is relief today. Please help.

  5. The problem is, God doesn’t fill the God shaped hole either. I’ve begged him to for years.
    i would like to understand what you mean by “willing to experience His desire for us instead of our own”. That really does seem to address what I struggle with. I CAN experience my desires, I have felt as if I am starving emotionally for most of my life. How do I actually experience His desire for me.
    what does “His desire for me” mean.

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