When is the last time you thought about hell, and I’m not talking about “hell on earth” as so many are apt to quip. Hell wasn’t last week when the boss chewed you out. Hell isn’t when your husband leaves you alone with all the ‘crazies!’ You know the scene, he is blissfully walking out the door, disconnected from the reality of the job that no one acknowledges called, “being a mom.”
On a more serious note, and not that those aren’t serious, but hell isn’t a debilitating disease. It’s not a crippling case of dystonia, a disease that causes involuntary muscle contractions, which result in slow repetitive movements, cramps, or abnormal posture with severe pain. Hell isn’t the loss of your 3 year-old son, who dies in a freak accident oh so un-expectantly. Hell’s not even the affair that your spouse had that continues to haunt.
All of these, and so many more life situations, feel like hell because we have no vocabulary to describe the feelings when we walk through these moments. We can’t find the words, so our go-to is “hell!”
OK then, will the real “Hell” please stand up? Because this is a blog post, there is no way in “hell” I can go to the theological depth needed. So, let’s go to the least common denominator in the room (me) and dumb it down. Very simply, Hell is the absence of God! Jesus uses a word picture when describing hell in the Greek. “Gehenna.” Gehenna was a real historical place when Jesus walked the earth. The Gehenna Valley was a place of burning sewage, burning flesh, human sacrifice, and garbage. It was a place utterly filthy, disgusting and repulsive to the nose and eyes. Gehenna presented such a vivid image that Christ used it as a symbolic depiction of hell.
Gehenna is the absence of God. In Gehenna, there is never order or peace. Our hope in Christ is that one day we will walk in order and peace. In Gehenna, the pain and suffering will never cease. Our hope in Christ is that one day our bodies will be whole again, with no pain or suffering. In Gehenna, you are separated for an eternity from the Creator, as well as all whom you have loved. Our hope in Christ is that one day we will see Him, and our loved ones once again!
Are you starting to get the picture? If God is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, grace, and so many other descriptives, then Hell is the absence of every one of those traits!
Hell is pain, suffering, hate, unforgiveness, lust, chaos, fear, and total hopelessness!
Why isn’t this hell on earth? Because you still have hope! It is your hope in Christ Jesus as your Lord and Savior that will help you through the most difficult of life circumstances. It is knowing He has a plan. It is experiencing a tangible presence in the midst of great darkness. It is knowing that your pain and suffering is only temporary, if you have trusted in Jesus!
So, the next time you start to talk about your life in the context of Hell, take a moment and reassess. Go to Jesus and thank Him, not for your pain and suffering, but for His! The pain He endured three thousand years ago is the hope that you and I can have today!