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Published Date: June 5, 2004


Published Date: June 5, 2004


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Cover of "Created to Thrive".

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Filling a God-Shaped Hole

Growing up, my father’s esteem was the most important in my life. Throughout my childhood I attempted to meet — and exceed — his expectations for me. I longed for his approval. If he thought I was smart, I was. If he thought I was pretty, I was. If he thought I was worthy of love, I was. My father’s sense of who I was shaped who I wanted to be. And it shaped who I wanted to be with.

Whether a girl’s relationship with her father was good or bad, existent or not, he is still the first man in her life. As girls move from child-hood to adolescence to adulthood, their fathers are often the first people they turn to discover their worth.

But no father is perfect; and no matter how much effort he exerts, at some point he will fall short. Whether because of little disappointments or spectacular failures, fathers are not able to fulfill all our needs.

“We have places of aching need in our souls that even the best father cannot humanly touch,” writes Paula Rinehart in her book Sex and the Soul of a Woman. “The question that shapes our lives is where we take this need. Many of us envision redemption in the shape of a man — a living breathing person very different from ourselves who seems destined to fill the void.”

But there is no man on earth who can fill that void. Only God can meet all of our needs and give us a lasting sense of self worth. Instead of relying on a man to give us value and purpose, we must learn to shift our focus to God and his Son.

Looking at the women in Jesus’ life, we can see the love and devotion he attracted. During his ministry, the women who followed him ranged from the wife of a powerful associate of a king to a woman tormented by demons. All who sought his love found it. Even the woman in John 8:3-11 — a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery — found redemption and worth in Jesus’ eyes.

These women left behind their pasts, which were littered with disappointment and hurt, and followed Jesus. Throughout his life, he never disappointed them. And his greatest, most unbelievable promise — his resurrection on the third day — was fulfilled.

“The best explanation for the devotion of these women is that no one ever loved them like he did,” writes Rinehart. “Innumerable women would echo just that: ‘No one ever loved me like Jesus.’”

In the arms of God

To find fulfillment, women need to understand their value does not come from the love of a man, but from the love of the Son of Man. But since the Fall, both women and men have sought their worth in the arms of other humans.

Since that fateful day in the garden, people have hunted for validation, often in their human relationships. If we are alone, we are unloved — or so we believe. Countless books, movies and songs direct us toward each other to find wholeness. (Think of the tear-jerking scene in Jerry Maguire when Tom Cruise desperately cries out to Renée Zellweger, “You complete me.”) Even popular Christian literature often promotes this message, suggesting that only through marriage can people find their ultimate calling — to be loved by a spouse and to raise a family. What a hurtful message for those not in that season of their lives, or for those who never marry.

On the flip side of the same coin lies independence. In Western culture, women are taught to be independent, to move through life without assistance from anyone.

“The strong, independent single woman has become a cultural icon,” says Rinehart. “Oddly enough, in Christian circles, ‘not needing anyone’ is some- times mistaken for a virtue, as though godliness were about looking to God alone, without any real human touch. But this defies God’s plan for you as a woman created for connectedness, with a heart full of longing. It blinds you to the special symmetry that is possible in the presence of a man — no matter what the setting. What he brings to the table and what you bring to the table is, indeed, a sum greater than other part.”

This Western glorification of independence leaves women wandering aimlessly in an attempt to find fulfillment in themselves instead of in their Father’s arms.

Embracing God’s love

Another great myth is that marriage is a cure-all for loneliness. But anyone can feel alone, even married people. So what’s a woman to do? With a God-giving longing for connectedness, how do we reconcile our understanding that nothing but God can give us value? Again we must direct our eyes to Jesus. Acknowledging that only God can fill a God-shaped hole and actually living that are two different things. But aloneness can be the catalyst that drives us back to the Father.

Sometimes God takes us through deserts – times when life seems empty and alone. In my own life I experienced this when a debilitating injury took away nearly everything I used to gauge my value. In one moment I lost my professional successes, my future as an officer in a publishing company and my substantial income. I clung to what remained, hoping to find my value in my husband, my family and my friends. But when those things inevitably failed me, I floundered in a desert of sorrow. It wasn’t until I finally stopped wrestling with God and let him embrace me that I realized he alone is able to give me worth and value. I found my truest self, and worth, in the arms of God.

Wrestling with God is a time-consuming and exhausting, but worth it if the fear of aloneness is banished and self worth takes its place. People confident in their own value are ready to embrace the plans God has for their lives — whether or not marriage and children are a part of those plans.