That’s the title for my talk that I’m giving in September at my church’s women’s retreat. And, aside from a lot of notes and thoughts in my journal, that’s the extent of what has been written for that talk! I’m not worried…God and I will work out the rest in due (His) time. However, the comments that you’ve left (see posts HERE and HERE) have given me a lot of food for thought and have driven me into the Word, so here’s the follow-up post I promised!
There weren’t a lot of answers, but I thought the cross-section of “Anonymous” gals was very interesting. We heard from a mom of young children, a woman in her fifties, a busy working mom, and a woman struggling with self-image. The survey post gave us answers from three (I assume) women, and when asked to reply with numbers (1-5) indicating the degree to which they agreed with the questions, these women answered very differently. One was all 1’s and 2’s, another, 2’s and 3’s, and the last was 3’s and 4’s. Man, I appreciate and admire your honesty! It’s only when we’re really honest with ourselves and with God, that He can get down to business and start helping us see ourselves through His eyes.
Let’s go through the questions I asked, one by one.
- Have you ever (or do you now) feel invisible or suffer feelings of discontent, emptiness or longing?
I’d have to accuse you of fibbin’ if you said “no” to this one! I think that being human in a fallen world sets an inner struggle in motion. Our “anonymous” friends all admitted to having felt this way at one time or another. Whether it’s feeling invisible because the majority of your time is spent doing thankless jobs taking care of others, or you’re using the feeling of invisibility as a place to hide with few outside expectations, there is still a sense of longing that is underlying it all. It sounds to me, after reading the comments and through my own experience and that of others in my life, that “invisibility”, discontent and emptiness are all intertwined. I think the very root of it all is a longing for something “more”.
- What ways do you or have you tried to fill emptiness or fix the situation?
This is where “American Idols” are something quite different from a handful of hopefuls in a singing competition! I doubt I’m the only one who has knelt at the altar of some counterfeit idols…relationships, money, food, recognition, sex, work, success, gambling, shopping, drugs, alcohol…even busy-ness! What about the more elusive idols like your kids or even ministry? We have such a deep, deep need inside for that something, that we often work ourselves silly trying to manufacture it for ourselves. If you can relate at all, it sounds like we have a lot in common with Israel in Isaiah 44:9-10:
How foolish are those who manufacture idols. These prized objects are really worthless. The people who worship idols don’t know this, so they are all put to shame. Who, but a fool would make his own god – an idol that cannot help him one bit?
That brings us to the next question.
- Was it successful, or did you still come up empty?
You know, there can
be some satisfaction found in the things to which we devote ourselves. I think the things that are not just downright destructive, are given to us to bring enjoyment and fulfillment, but they will not ultimately fill that deep longing. I would go so far as to say that they can’t.
My anonymous girlfriends seem to agree with me. You see, I think that the longing we have, deep deep down, is a longing to be known.
It’s something that we feel so deeply, that we try to satisfy it with our marriages or significant relationships, our friends, our kids, our jobs, and recognition. When those things fall short, which they ultimately always do, we often resort to destructive things to mask the pain. Because it hurts to not feel like you’re known
- What is your opinion of how God works into all of these feelings?
My blog sisters, despite their being in different stages and walks of life, all brought up excellent points in answer to this question. Our young mom brought up the important point that when we get lost in our “feelings”, we get a skewed view of what is true in life. God is the constant on which to focus and through whose eyes we need to view ourselves. Our busy working mom points out that she finds her significance when she stays close to God. Our friend who struggles with her self-image is heeding God’s call to come out from hiding, so He can fill her longings. And, finally, our sister who is in her 50’s said something so beautifully, that I’m going to quote her:
“God knows our every thought, desire, dream, ability, breath…and yet, we continue to look elsewhere for our “known-ness”, when we really already have the perfect “Know-er”…Jesus.”
Friends, this is exactly the point I want to drive home. I believe that God, in His infinite wisdom, put a deep longing in us that only He could fill, and I believe He did it by design. He knew we would be living in this crazy, broken world. He knew we would struggle to find our way, so He put something in us to keep us turning our eyes heavenward. He put a longing to be known in us because He knew it would eventually lead us to the only real place that we could find fulfillment. That “hole” in you is shaped exactly like Him and NOT like anything you can manufacture! He’s the answer to your every question and the satisfaction of your every longing. But He doesn’t force himself in. He just went ahead and created the perfect dwelling place for Himself, for when you decide to ask Him in.
He IS the perfect “Know-er”. Let me prove it to you:
- Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; You formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God – you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration – what a creation! You know me inside out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how it was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day. Psalm 139:13-16 MSG
- Indeed the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Luke 12:7 NIV
- …He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. John 10:3 NIV (He knows you by name).
- …God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are His” 2 Tim 2:19 NIV
- but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him. 1 Corinthians 8:3 NASB
- Can a mother forget the infant at her breast, walk away from the baby she bore? But even if mothers forget, I‘d never forget you – never. Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands. The walls you’re rebuilding are never out of my sight. Isaiah 49:16 MSG
- And God, Who is acquainted with and understands the heart, bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit Acts 15:8 AMP
I could go on and on. The thing to realize is that because He knows us…FOR THAT REASON ALONE…we are significant. Your longing to be known has ALREADY BEEN FILLED. It’s just a matter of claiming it and believing it.
I want to address our survey for a minute. To remind you of the questions, they are as follows:
- I feel others really don’t understand me.
- I feel disconnected from God.
- I feel empty.
- I struggle with discontent.
- I’m dissatisfied.
The possible answers ranged from “1” – Never to “5” – Always.
This is specifically to my sweet 3’s and 4’s girl (and anyone else who can relate):
YOU DON’T HAVE TO FEEL THIS WAY. If you are looking for satisfaction in this world, REAL satisfaction, you’re not going to find it. Instead, there is something BETTER. People may not always understand you, but GOD DOES. He FORMED YOU FROM THE INSIDE OUT. He sees every tarnished spot that you’re trying to hide, and LOVES YOU ANYWAY, because in His eyes, YOU’RE ALREADY WASHED SPARKLING CLEAN. He LONGS (You are His longing – can you even imagine?) to FILL YOU UP WITH HIMSELF so that you never have to feel empty again. If you felt known, KNOWN TO THE POINT THAT SOMEONE THOUGHT YOU WORTH THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE, would you struggle as much with discontent and dissatisfaction? You wouldn’t have to anymore. You ARE KNOWN…the LONGING HAS BEEN FULFILLED, and He’s ready to take up residence in that God-shaped hole. Just ask Him. (If you want to know more, you can email me through the link on my profile page.)
Our amazing God knows us and designed us from the inside out, complete with a place for Himself…ONLY Himself…intent on leaving us as whole and complete as we can possibly be this side of heaven.
I’ll leave you with a song by PLUMB
Does the world seem gray with empty longing
Wearing every shade of cynical,
And do you ever feel that
There is something missing?
There’s a God-shaped hole in all of us
And the restless soul is searching
There’s a God-shaped hole in all of us,
And it’s a void that only He can fill.