Let me see if I can put this into words. I woke up this morning at 3:06AM with a sense of serenity which I attributed to my faith in God. Then in my foggy state of mind, I started slipping into a dark sadness that was real and I thought this has to be what hell feels like. Let me explain.
I have had a blessed life. I am the child of two loving parents who took care of me, provided for me, encouraged and nurtured me. I have not had the experiences of horror that some people have had during their childhood. Believe me…I was never hungry. Never cold. Never frightened. Never in danger. All my needs were met. There was safety and security and love. Bombs were not going off in the tiny town where I lived and guns were not a threat in my life. I never encountered anyone who I thought would do me harm as a child. I had an innocent, safe, idyllic childhood. I never experienced violence, abandonment by family, a natural disaster, or abuse. My life as an adult has been blessed as well. My husband and I have created a happy home where we raised three great kids who are now creating their own happy lives. I am thankful everyday for these things.
Having said that I must admit that my life has not been perfect. Life on this earth never will be. Along the way I had difficult experiences as well. My daddy died when I was fourteen. After witnessing in my husband what a loving father means to children, I realized even more the loss I experienced at my father’s death. Some of the people I have encountered in life have been less than kind to me and made me very sad. Some of the things I hoped for never happened which greatly disappointed and discouraged me. What I am trying to say here is that, while I never had to survive a terrorist bombing or personal violence in my life, I have had experiences that wounded me deeply. Compared to others’ injuries, my wounds were mild. But, for me, those hurts contributed to my own personal hell. The feelings I experienced were temporary and didn’t last, but they were very real at the time and caused me to despair.
I realized this morning at 3 AM that hell must be the constant and unending experience of despair, and also, frustration, loneliness, betrayal, hurt, anger, sadness, abandonment, fear, emptiness, depression, pain, loss, grief, hopelessness, ugliness, resentment, jealousy, envy, weariness, insecurity, hatred, etc, etc, etc. The list goes on and on and then there’s the fire and brimstone to consider. Hell is a place or thing I don’t want to experience.
In contrast, I believe heaven is the eternal experience of serenity, joy, comfort, happiness, security, peace, well being, rest, love, kindness, mercy, hope, beauty, loveliness, belonging, purity, encouragement and so on and so on. Heaven, I think, is a place or thing to be desired and hoped for.
Interestingly, in Hebrews 11:1 we are told this: Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Because of my faith, I am confident and sure there is a heaven; in addition, I am also sure there is a hell. Heaven is what I hope for. It is where my soul will find rest. My life may not have been the hell that some people have lived on this earth, but I think I have had glimpses of what hell would be for me and I do not want to go there.
So, what do I do with this realization? My faith tells me that I must love the Lord, my God, with all my heart, soul, and mind and I must love my neighbor as myself. I must live out my faith in a much more private and public way. I must go to God in prayer so that I might know Him and that He would know me and those prayers should be less about me and more about Him. What does He want me to know? What does He want me to learn from this sacred time with Him? What does He want me to do for others? How should I live my life so that others would know Him through me? Then I have to go into the world and be the hands and feet of Jesus. I must be the light that shines before others through good deeds and because of those deeds, God is glorified. God is glorified because it is only by God’s grace that I love enough to care for my fellow man and act on that love.
I must encourage the despondent and comfort those who are sick and are suffering. I must find time to visit the lonely and forgotten ones around me. I must soothe the wounds of those who have been hurt. I must not hide my light under a basket. I must be courageous in my faith so that others might know the source of that light, which is the love of Christ.
Now, this courage and public display of an inward conviction does not come easy for me. I am an introvert through and through. Spoken words don’t come quickly to an introvert in a pinch. (That’s why you are reading this because it has been edited lots and lots! Introverts are much better writers than speakers.) However, I also believe that God will give me the grace to do what He wants me to do when He wants me to do it. I just have to consciously get out of the way and let God work in me every day. Every day I must seek out the Kingdom of Heaven and what God wants for my life. If I do that, considering again what Hebrews 11:1 tells me, I believe I have the assurance of the heaven I hope for.
Thanks be to God!