Prompted in part by another posters thread here, and in part by my lifelong continuous reflection on my life to date, what is this feeling of emptiness, or void, that only God can fill, for believers?
It’s also partially prompted as I promised Buffalo I would pray for 40 nights, and I’m keeping my promise. I won’t refer to anything about this here, I’ll start a thread when the 40 days are up, with honest feedback.
I can honestly say, and this is after a lifetime of meditations and reflections so far, there is no part of my life, no layer within a layer, where I have even the slightest hint there might be something missing, and that something is not of this world.
I’d be very interested in hearing stories here of thos who as atheists or agnostics felt this void, and had it filled when they found belief.
I’d also be very interested in hearing from believers what it feels like to have this void filled, and do they ever feel the void inside still, even though they now believe.
And from those who believed, and no longer do so, do they feel there is now a void, where previously there was none.
I’m really interested in peoples real-life experiences here, not so much references to Scripture or Church Fathers, in answers.
To be honest, you should never feel “saved,” because that concept completely ignores scripture.
I have had several atheist friends who have told me they don’t feel anything missing from their life, and in talking to them, I’ve actually come up with a theory as to why that is. To the atheists reading, I apologize in advance if you take offense to this.
Every atheist I’ve ever met, apart from one, has claimed they feel perfectly fulfilled, no emptiness, no lack of anything in their lives. I honestly believe that this is because they have completely cut themselves off from God. Sin pulls us away from God, it creates a chasm between us and Him because it represents our choice to reject him. Atheism, at it’s core, is also a rejection of God, and a reject of the possibility of any god.
This absolute rejection of God essentially closes a person to Him; after all, if you’re not listening you’ll never hear anything.
Christians feel a sense of emptiness because we know we are not yet whole. We cannot be a complete being until we are with our Father; and so we seek him. Everything else in our lives is geared towards reaching Him.
An atheist rejects the possibility of God, and therefore rejects any sensation which calls them to Him. The mind and free will are incredibly powerful tools, and when they are engaged in the rejection of God they have to power to cut us off from him. Atheists believe they are whole, and so they feel whole.
WoundedIcon, I would say that this is why you now feel more empty than before. As an atheists you believed yourself complete. As a Catholic, you recognize that you will never be complete in this life. The emptiness stinks, yes, but it is a gift designed to draw us closer to God. The stronger our faith in life the closer we are to Him, and the less emptiness we feel because of that closeness.
I was so busy “sinning” that I didn’t recognize that I wasn’t " full." I feel truth about my existence. I wouldn’t say full. I used to drive myself with negativity and I don’t do that anymore. I have regrets about my past.
Well I certainly don’t feel like anything is missing. Which I’m finding interesting, because of everything I’ve read here and elsewhere, and all the conversations I have here and elsewhere, I’m lead to believe there is a void within us all, that we can feel, and only God can fill.
Like I said in my post. The brain is a powerful thing, capable of amazing deceptions. You believe you are not missing anything, therefore you feel as though you aren’t. You won’t feel God’s presence until you open yourself to Him.
Do you ever long for beauty? When you encounter something beautiful (nature, a masterpiece of art, an incredibly moving song, an incredible dinner or piece of exotic fruit, a child’s laughter, a person treating another with kindness, etc.) does this move you? Does it not make you long for more… for something deeper? Do you not want to experience this again, perhaps even more profoundly?
Our soul waits for beauty and hungers for beauty. No one wants to live in a garbage dump or be unclean. Why? It happens quite often. But no one wants it or desires it. Even the poorest among us has the same wants, needs and desires as the richest. Why is it that we always strive for beauty and happiness despite the troubles around us?
there is no part of my life, no layer within a layer, where I have even the slightest hint there might be something missing
Have you never longed for a world where there was no suffering and destruction? Then you have longed for more. Have you ever been inspired by something? Have you ever yearned for more knowledge and a deeper understanding of things? Then you have longed for more.
It’s like a delicious, exotic fruit. Before you knew about it, you would have never thought about it. But then you tasted it for the first time, and it left you wanting to taste it again and again because you realized it was good. Of course this isn’t a very good analogy, but when we “taste” God, we realize out hunger for Him. We realize our loneliness and our desire for communion with Him.
You’re assuming that there has to be a feeling of emptiness - I don’t think that’s always the case. Feelings are not the be-all end-all of life, and many times they lead us down the wrong path anyway. I believe you when you say that you don’t feel empty, but I also know logically that God exists. So in your case, feelings of happiness or contentment are actually counterproductive in the long-term. As ProdglArchitect mentioned, a feeling of emptiness is really a gift from God prompting us to see how transitory and unsubstantial our earthly lives are.
Why hasn’t God given you this gift? Only He knows of course, but it could be because you’ve made such a strong, definitive choice to reject Him. He will always keep trying to get your attention though. And even the smallest baby steps of open-mindedness on your part will be rewarded with a stronger ability to believe.
I really hope this 40 days of prayer will pay off for you.
Edit: After I re-read your original post I have to say I’m just not buying it to the level that you’re trying to sell it. I don’t mean this in a mean-spirited way I promise…but just think about what you’re saying here:
there is no part of my life, no layer within a layer, where I have even the slightest hint there might be something missing
If that sentence is true, then you’re the happiest person to ever walk the face of the earth. You’re the next incarnation of the Buddha. :rolleyes: But I’ve read your posts before and I’ve seen you get frustrated just like the rest of us…so the statement above is actually a pretty big exaggeration isn’t it? For example, wouldn’t you say that greater tolerance for atheists is something you feel is “missing”?
I’m going to guess that what you really meant to say is that you’re content in life, and that’s fair enough. But try to look a little deeper and see if you can find any holes at all. If not you may not be as good at introspection as you think.
When you know, really know, that life is eternal, that your family are alive and well in Eternity, that you never lose them, that you are loved unconditionally, even though you’re kind of a jerk (well, I am) when you know you are never ever alone and that you matter, eternally, when you know, it’s like you exist simultaneously outside and of your body, it opens a gateway for the Holy Spirit, not a theological concept but the only word I have for the encounter with Light, to come into you or draw you to Him/It.
In my experience, the void is the disconnection. Like the plug at the end of an electric wire just lying on the floor. If you are at the end, there’s nothing, no connection.
Once you know, you are always plugged in. And if you slip out of synch, you know how to get back.
You are loved and always will be and are not alone, Sarah. I promise.
It was back in 1997 when a classmate gave me a similar task involving praying and attending her church every Sunday for three months. At the end of this experiment I remained unmoved. Though I did have a better understanding of her social circle in much the same way that an anthropoligist would from having lived among a tribe of a people.
Anyway, to answer your question, I fall into the following camp.
Nope. I had been taught, among other things, that that non-believers would have a deep feeling of dissatisfaction, a thirst that could not be quenched, and other metaphors to express this void. There were many things I was told about non-believers that I found to be untrue as I became one. But that’s another story. I can’t say that I’ve felt anything that I can identify as this void that I am alleged to have.
I understand exactly what you’re saying. But sometimes these are a moment never to be repeated. Or that you never want to be repeated.
I’m going to be a little vague for politeness and decency and privacy here, but I was somewhere once, and something happened. As that something was happening, two other unrelated events happened simultaneously. It brought all three events together in a way never before or since. If ever I was going to believe in heaven, it was then.
I’ve never been back there, and I never will. It’s a deliberate decision on my part. It would never be the same the second time, things would be different, though no doubt great, but not the same.
Sometimes, when something so profound happens, you don’t want it to happen again. You need it once, to savor for the rest of your life.
Gosh I hope that make some kind of sense.
Why is it that we always strive for beauty and happiness despite the troubles around us?
It’s the nature of the beast. We’re driven to improve.
Have you never longed for a world where there was no suffering and destruction?
No suffering or minimul suffering for people, animals and the environment yes, not no destruction, as that’s part of nature. That’s what I long for for others, most especially my children and future generations, but that doesn’t equate to an emptiness inside me, longing to b filled somehow. That’s more a daily call to action to do something and not waste time, with the time I’ve got. So if anything it contributes to making me feel even more full!
Have you ever been inspired by something?
Oh, all the time.
Have you ever yearned for more knowledge and a deeper understanding of things?
Oh sure, all the time.
Then you have longed for more.
In this sense though, I don’t see it, or feel it, as something missing in my life, just more being added to already what’s there.
I was trying to get a better understanding of what it is, that this void is made up of, and what it feels like, the believers experience.
One of the things I’m open to when doing the prayer exercises I’m currently doing, is to even get a glimpse, however vague, of an awareness of this gateway. I would love for that to happen and I’m totally open to it happening.
Your inquiries are astute, valid, and they would seem to cover a range of personal scenarios.
Since you ask for personal experiences, I will attempt to answer briefly. I was raised Catholic, but did not experience anything while growing up except much personal turmoil and fear, which probably can be attributed to a painful intepersonal family situation which no one wanted, but one which we are all dealt with some measure of suffering and pain beyond our control.
I had a pang of conscience of doing wrong at the age of three, eventhough no one knew of the wrong I had done. On rare occasions, I experienced a presence of peace while at Mass around the age of 10.
I left the Catholic faith and all faith while I was a teenager. During this time I was honestly seeking the meaning and truth of life. I was an agnostic.This continued for many years until my early twenties when I had a dramatic conversion which literally saved my physical life first, and then gradually came the spiritual reformation of my darkened conscience, along with a spiritual awareness. With this reformation came an unburdening of guilt, along with, what I would call the ‘peace of God’. Eventually, I came back to the Catholic church, but most of those many years were outside the confines of any church. It was just myself and God.
The emotional turmoil, fear, and shame took many years to heal despite this
spiritual awakening and peace from God. There was a time when I experienced the ‘love of God’ so powerfully, that I did not know whether to fall on my face in complete awe, or get up and thank God with words which can not adequately express. So, I know beyond a shadow of doubt that there is a great, great, great depth to the love of God.
Those experiences happened during times when I was wrestling back and forth with sins of commission. There are so many levels of falling short. Bad attitudes rooted in personality seem to be most difficult to overcome in Christ Jesus.
Those experiences of the love of God have long past. Sometimes I feel God’s great compassion for individuals, where a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, a charitable act, or a silent prayer might be required. Suffering is almost a constant, not physical, for God has blessed me with health, but feeling the pain of others, and a sorrow which has no source identifiable. Occasionally the joy of God captures my soul, but that is not too often.
I never thank God enough, and if I did thank God more often, I believe that I would know more of the joy of the Lord. So now, I say, thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Bless the Lord, Oh my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
I don’t know if I felt exactly what you would call a ‘void’ or not, but I recently discovered my faith about 4 months ago. I was raised Catholic but not invested. I went away from the church in my late teens. I always believed in God and Jesus (with times of doubt) and off and on prayed and read the bible. 4 months ago I went to confession for the first time in 17 years. Prior to that I felt a stirring in me and asked my father about church and what brought him to church (he never went when we were kids, just my mother and my sisters and I, now both my parents are very close to the Church and are both Eucharistic Ministers) as he would off and on tell me of what Catholic teaching is trying to encourage me to get back to the church.
I prepared for confession. I was scared. During and afterwards I felt an extreme change. I felt blessed. I felt relief. I felt acceptance. I felt a renewed purpose in life. Hope and graditute entered my life. I felt that I had the capacity to better my life for the first time in a long time. And I feel relief, peace, and basically a lot of positive good things when I pray. I feel connected to God and Christ, particularly when I pray. I am not nearly as scared as I used to be, and I was/am scared of PEOPLE of all things, particularly any authority figures like my boss, etc. I’m afraid to conduct business with people like my landlord, calling the cable TV company, simple things for most people. Now I have hope that this can change.
I feel blessed that I now can and do freely discuss God with my wife and others who believe in God at appropriate times. I’m a work in progress, that’s for sure, but I’m much better off than I was pre my confession. I enjoy going to Church now, I don’t think I ever actually enjoyed a Catholic Mass until the one after my confession recently. I’m still working to fill voids or flaws within myself, but now I have the help of God and Jesus who I can turn to whenever I want and I know they are there for me listening. I have a lot to learn and a lot to figure out but am in a much better postion now that I have God and Jesus in my life because I opened my heart to them again recently.