Do Young Americans Have ‘a God-Shaped Hole’?

Hi friends,

The Wall Street Journal asked students to discuss religion in light of Pascal’s idea that all people have a God-shaped hole.*

The responses are fascinating. For instance, Max Willner-Giwerc, in the University of Chicago’s law program, concludes his answer this way:

Pascal was right—we all desire God, and my contemporaries have filled the void in themselves with political movements and tweets.

Interesting! The longing for the ultimate needs fulfillment. If we don’t have God, perhaps technology and politics will do?

Now that students have given their answers - with a 250 word limit! - I’d like to challenge you to do the same.

Do we have a God-shaped hole? If so, how are we filling it?


I personally do believe I have a God shaped hole and so does everyone else. Even as a Christian, many times I struggle to fill it.

I tend to turn to forms of escapism such as sleeping, watching videos, playing games, work and isolation and food to fill it. However, I’ve realized that everything I was doing to escape and temporarily forget about that hole couldn’t do justice. In fact I’ve realized that it is because I have God that I can do those things and I should be doing them as a service and justice to God, not to move away from him.

Reminding myself of why I am doing what I am doing and that I can rely on the sovereignty of God to support me helps me to place God back on his throne.:raised_hands:


As I reflect back to scripture and I don’t think scripture frames our problem in this way. I believe scripture teaches that we were created by God for a purpose. When we as people don’t fulfill our created purpose we substitute our own purposes in life for God’s purpose so that, at least to ourselves, there seems to be purpose to life. Some of the purposes in life that people try and substitute for God’s purpose are; environmentalism, business success, social justice, political agendas, intellectual knowledge, pleasure, religious activity, and financial success. Along with purpose many become involved with these activities because they are trying to achieve a level a societal righteousness in their life. But true righteousness and purpose can only be achieved when our greatest need is met. Since the fall of man our greatest need has been for savior, someone that will remove the stain of sin in our lives. Only when we have accepted that Christ has paid the penalty for our personal sin that we have committed, can we begin to live out our purpose, and have a meaning to life that is beyond our own thoughts. People were originally created to bring glory to God through worship and the proclamation of His majesty. Without a savior our created purpose is unachievable. Although we were not created this way, but due to sin, it could be said that biggest hole in our lives that only God can fill is that of the savior Jesus Christ.



I really like how you talked about this. I guess I would call it the desire for satisfaction? Finding fulfillment in God - and in his love for me, at this moment - is part of what changes my outlook from feeling empty to experiencing abundance. From, “I need something to be okay” to, “I want to share this love with others.” Transformative. May God continue to do this work within us. It is all by his grace and the work of His Spirit.

Hi @don,

Interesting reflections! I hadn’t considered looking at this from the lens of purpose.

It prompts a question: how can we tell the difference between being fully committed to Christ and his purposes, and therefore to serving him with, say, our business, and being fully committed to business success?


Hi @Carson,
Your question hints at the idea that it is hard to be able to fully know what is happening in the heart…which I agree with. But I think Jesus gives us pretty good instruction for us in this matter; Matthew 7:13-23 and Mark 4:8, 20.

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Yea, that is good guidance. :slight_smile:

I am trying to be careful about how I evaluate this.

For instance, sad to say, there was a time in my life when I was suspicious of environmentalists. They’d been portrayed to me as extremists who loved the planet more than humans. (And I suppose that does exist). But as I kept reading the Bible, I couldn’t help but realize that God loves his creation, and expects us to care for it. So I became very grateful for the environmental movement. I’m not endorsing everyone and everything in a large movement, but I think the impulse to care for the earth and its ecosystems is a good one.

That is to say, some of what I would have previously identified as “bad fruit” I now see as “good fruit.”

I’m not sure if that resolves anything. I’m just sharing some of the complexity I’ve observed in this area.


I would agree with you, that our standards for what is “good” can easily change over time. Because of this I think we need to be careful that cultural standards and agendas don’t determine the purpose for our lives, allowing culture standards to determine what is holy or righteous. There may be good ideas within the culture but when we add cultural standards and agendas to the main purpose of the Christian faith we can easily become like the Pharisees and start adding to God’s law to create our own standard for righteousness apart from the saving grace of Christ. I could be wrong, or maybe it is just the word you used “good” but, I am not sure that the type of crop produced by the Word of God in Mark 4:20 is bound by cultural standards and agendas. I get the same understanding in the Matthew passage, because Jesus connects the production of good fruit with those that will call Him Lord. :face_with_monocle:

Referring back to your idea of “good fruit” and the environment; it’s been hovering around -30C here throughout this last couple of weeks. I don’t believe that whether I heat my house with wood, coal, natural gas or electricity, will affect the kind of fruit that Jesus was talking about in these passages. But some cultural standards would deem me the worst of sinners if I was to use anything but electricity (by the way if I did, I would either be broke or frozen). :cold_face: I think the same type of application could be made for any of the topics that I brought up previously that our culture get us sidetracked on their standards and agendas.

I believe that as servants of the one who judges justly; the greatest need of all people is that of a savor. I believe good fruit is grown when God’s people pursue their purpose and effectively cultivate the garden to allow that seed to grow. This can happen in many ways, including the public discourse of politics, but we always need to remember our God given purpose to be faithful to the one we represent. I think Philippians 3 is particularly encouraging in this area.

I would agree with you of these type of issues can be complex and I am not sure that I have brought further clarity to the issues either, but I am always very cautious when the church becomes a propaganda stream for the world’s agenda.