Have you ever felt like you had a hole in your heart large enough to drive a cement truck through? Or have a gap or hollow space in your soul? We are born with a God-shaped hole in our heart that only God can fill. But sometimes we sense a hole even when God is taking His rightful place in our heart. If that is the case, you were probably grieving.
The pain of grief will come to everyone who walks this earth. We can grieve over any loss. Grief runs the gamut of the lost promotion, disappointment in a loved one, the birth of a child with disabilities to the ultimate loss of a loved one.
I felt a hole in my heart when my son left home to join the Coast Guard. He was 2500 miles away. Even though I reproached myself for feeling this pain by telling myself, "Betty, you are a real dote. Just think of all the mothers who have said goodbye to their loved ones during wartime - many to never set eyes on them again - and your son is not in any real danger." This line of reasoning did not patch up the hole in my heart.
I spent much time praying for my son in those days because he had a lot of growing up to do and I had to do a lot of relinquishing.
People would say to me, "At least you have two other children at home."
I was grateful for my other children, but the lack of my son's presence was still painful because no one can replace another in one's heart. The intensity of love towards my children is sometimes unbearable. I love them and am at times concerned for them to the point of pain. Each one of my children has their own strengths, character, attributes and qualities that endear them to my heart. Each child has a unique personality all their own. None is loved more than the other.
As I prayed about this void in my heart, my Heavenly Father showed me how His love for His children can be compared to our earthly relationships. The emptiness I was feeling for my son is the way He suffers for each one of His children who have become alienated from Him. Even though Father God has many children, there is a specific place in His heart for each one and He is grieved with that person-specific cavity. There is a Bob-shaped space, or a Betty-shaped hole in the heart of God if we have broken relationship with Him.
Though not in my case, there are some children that are easier to love than others. Some children demand life on their own terms and are rebellious towards their parents and towards God. Their lives bring embarrassment and estrangement to their family and they feel troubled in their family's presence because of feelings of guilt, hate, unforgiveness, jealousy, and so forth. This rift is incredibly painful because, though there are other children in the family, no one can replace the void that is left by that lost or strained relationship.
God loves everyone in the world. Some have accepted His love and forgiveness through His Son's sacrifice on the cross. These are His true children. He loves to walk and talk with them everyday. He loves it when their lives bring Him glory. But some of His children are rebellious and want to live their lives on their own terms and do not honor their Heavenly Father with their lives. Although He loves them, it hurts Him when they embarrass Him by their lives. They no longer communicate with Him as they once did, even though He attempts to get their attention. They either ignore Him or are deaf to His calling. He'll go to great efforts to reconcile their relationship and is willing to forgive with open arms when they sincerely come to Him. Even though He has other children, no one else can fill the void of their broken relationship.
The story Jesus told about the prodigal son shows how eager the father was to heal the broken relationship between him and his youngest and wayward son. Luke wrote in chapter 15:20 (NLB), "…and while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him." The father must have been watching, with a prayer in his broken heart for his wayward son, in order to see him "… a long distance away…"
Comparing my love for my children to God's love for me helps me understand the intensity of His love in my deepest emotions, and was the first step in healing the hole in my heart. His capacity to love is far greater than my own, even though my love can be so intense that it is sometimes painful. I tell my children that I love them too much. But if you ask Jesus how much He loves you, He'll stretch His arms out and say, "This much!"
It was enough that He loved us so much that He stretched His arms out on the cross for our sins. It was enough that He rose again from the dead and ascended to His Father. It was enough that He sent His Holy Spirit to fill us with His power. But He continues to give and give and give …