Their stories are real, but some of the names have been changed.
• John told his story at a drug rehabilitation center. His parents were divorced and his father had been a cocaine addict. His mother worked all the time, but he was close to his grandfather—till his grandfather died when John was 14.
"I was angry that he was taken away. I didn't understand, I was lonely. I was a latchkey kid. I just started doing stuff because I was so angry, I think" (quoted by Barbara Strauch, The Primal Teen, 2003, p. 183).
• Between the ages of 15 and 17, Jo's gambling began to take up all her time and attention, leading her to skip school and then drop out at 16. "I remember blowing all my wages in a few hours one Friday night. I got really upset and depressed. It's like drugs, you tell yourself 'never again' but deep down you know that as soon as the next pay cheque comes in, you'll be [gambling again]" ( www.camh.net/egambling/issue8/clinic/griffiths/ ).
• Debbie, 20, described the time that led her to finally call a drug treatment center. "I was in a café, shaking, lonely and sweating profusely. I needed a fix!
"I went further downhill. I was living in a one-roomed, dirty bedsit [apartment] where men visited me so that I could scrape a living and afford my drugs. My life was going nowhere. My body was in ruins" (www.drugsline.org).
• "A girl in our town committed suicide recently. She did well in school and came from a family with plenty of money" (quoted by Miriam Kaufman, Overcoming Teen Depression, 2001, p. 194).
Some look at these life stories and say, "How could they do those things?" But I've felt that bottomless pit of pain, confusion and hopelessness, and more often my question is, "In this insane and sadistic world, how does anyone avoid a breakdown or self-destructing?"
I guess the fact that most of us continue to struggle through each day shows that our will to live and our various coping mechanisms are strong (see sidebar). But even the best coping mechanisms aren't complete solutions, and too many other things we try only make things worse—sometimes much worse.
The gaping hole we feel, when not masked by self-medication, spurs us to search.
Search for relationships
The hole in our hearts is often displayed in our desperate quest for friendships, and especially for a girlfriend or boyfriend. God knows we need other people to support us through our problems and, better yet, to make our lives interesting and worthwhile (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Ecclesiastes 4:9-10  Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor.
 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falls; for he has not another to help him up.
American King James Version×).
If family isn't helping fulfill that need and if friends are hard to find, we may end up seeking shallow, short-term social interactions, even ones based solely on sex. But these never satisfy.
Too often when we are suffering from a hole in our heart, another breakup or disappointment by a friend will only deepen the wound.
Being a good friend and building strong friendships are vital aspects of a happy life. (See our Oct.-Dec. 2006 issue on friendship at www.verticalthought.org/issues/vt13/ for more on how to achieve this worthwhile goal.) But surprisingly, many have found that even the best friendships never completely fill this hole in our lives.
Search for meaning
Some of the most honest writing, from European existentialists to grunge garage bands to berserk bloggers, is some of the most painful to read, because it clearly reveals the meaninglessness and hopelessness of the human condition apart from God.
You could make a strong case that the postmodern world has perfected the art of despair. But the troubles are not new. The wisdom of the ancient world, in the person of King Solomon of Israel, recognized a world that was painful, unfair and hopeless even then.
The book of Ecclesiastes was Solomon's ode to meaninglessness without proper orientation in life. Consider these brief excerpts (New Living Translation throughout):
"Everything is so weary and tiresome!" (1:8).
"So now I hate life because everything done here under the sun is so irrational. Everything is meaningless, like chasing the wind" (2:17).
Solomon even thought that those who were never born are the most fortunate, "for they have never seen all the evil done in our world" (4:1-3).
"Those who love money will never have enough. How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness!" (5:10).
Search for God
If you've read this far, you must be hoping there is a solution to all this hopelessness. And the One who designed you says yes, there is meaning and hope. There is a purpose for your life, one that will truly fill that hole God knows you have.
The solution involves relationships and real meaning in life. It's much deeper than shallow imitations. God says, the natural man, without an awareness of the spiritual, can't comprehend it.
Solomon concludes in Ecclesiastes with an acknowledgment that life's apparent meaningless is resolved through a proper understanding of man's reason for being—to honor and obey God (12:13). And the Bible elsewhere shows that this will be rewarded with blessed, purposeful existence without end.
"See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for he allows us to be called his children, and we really are!"
(1 John 3:1 1 John 3:1Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not.
American King James Version×).
Our mission—our meaning in life—is to pursue this goal Our Creator wants for us. He wants us to be part of His family—forever! He has important things He wants us to do now, and for all eternity. With God's help we strive now to live as He instructs, which includes helping others achieve this same incredible potential.
These few words on paper can't come close to conveying the earthshaking, mind-boggling and beyond-our-wildest-dreams nature of the future God is preparing for us!
Yes, God knows all our weaknesses—and wants to help us through them (Hebrews 4:14-16 Hebrews 4:14-16  Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
American King James Version×). He knows all our weariness—and offers us rest (Matthew 11:28 Matthew 11:28Come to me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
American King James Version×). He knows all our troubles—and offers us comfort. And He wants to help us learn to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 2 Corinthians 1:3-4  Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;  Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted of God.
American King James Version×). He knows all our sorrows—and promises to one day wipe away all tears (Revelation 21:4 Revelation 21:4And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
American King James Version×).
If you are serious about wanting to truly fill that hole in your heart, take some time to study what God offers and what He wants from you. The following booklets summarize some of the best biblical highlights: Making Life Work, What Is Your Destiny? and Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion. Download them or order free copies at www.gnmagzine.org/booklets. VT
Things We Use to Try to Fill the Hole
We know the symptoms, but we can't find the cure. Here are some of the coping mechanisms we try:
• TV, movies, video games or other entertainment.
• Running away or drifting.
• Alcohol and drugs.
None of these does anything to solve the problem, but they can make things worse—often much worse.
Then there are some socially acceptable coping mechanisms that can have many benefits. These include throwing yourself into sports, work, hobbies, grades, friends and family. But as helpful as they can be, even these good things are incomplete, and can never truly fill the aching void that afflicts all of God's human creation.