I want to be honest, I don’t presume to know what Hell is like, and because of Jesus, I trust I’ll never truly know. I know there are some who don’t like the idea of Hell or even care to believe in it, but this won’t be a biblical defense on the idea of Hell. If you stick around long enough, I am sure I will cover that concept at some point. That all being said, I want to think through something with you.
A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend over a Starbucks coffee (many of us have been there). My friend was sharing with me about his recent break-up with the girl he intended to marry. As he began to describe the pain and hardship that he suffered from this broken relationship he used one word to describe it: you guessed it…Hell. We all use that word or concept to refer to things in this life that we don’t like or that seem impossible to endure. I too, recently suffered the loss of some people that I love, and I agree that Hell is an appropriate concept to describe the intensity of the pain and onslaught of other feelings I was, and occasionally still am, wrestling with.
So what am I getting at? It seems like the pinnacle of human experience is the relationship. The evidence is all around. From the day we are born we have relationship with care givers (normally parents) with whom we develop a relationship (good or bad). We all seek friendship and usually with multiple people. Nearly everyone is striving to find that one relationship with another that gives them ultimate satisfaction. Hollywood is no dummy. They see this truth and capitalize on it. Its why nearly every movie ever either features or includes a love story or deep heartfelt friendship. But if relationships are the pinnacle of our human experience, that also means they can be the torment of our very existence.
If we find those deep meaningful relationships then we feel fulfilled and live a life full of meaning and purpose. However, if our life lacks those relationships, or even worse, suffers the loss of those relationships, it can result in the debacle of the human psyche. It would seem to me that we are hardwired for relationships, hence why we put so much effort into developing successful ones and suffer such agony when they are lost.
I think it is safe to say that all of us have or will suffer the loss of a deep meaningful relationship in life. It may be a friend betraying you, a broken relationship with a significant other, or even the passing of a loved one. Although the reasons for the feelings may drastically differ, but the destination of depression is all too common.
Now the more I get to know God through the Bible and in my experience, the more it becomes clear to me that my capacity for relationship was fashioned not only to experience this with humans, but also with the Creator Himself. If we get such euphoria from human loving relationships, how much more so with the Almighty God Himself? But anyone who deeply searched the Scriptures should see that relationship with God was broken long ago. They should also see that relationship with God was offered again, completely enabled through God coming to earth Himself as the man Jesus Christ. Jesus came to restore relationship with man through His sacrifice. The plot thickens when we realize Jesus, the one who came to restore relationship, talked about Hell more than anyone else in the Bible.
So how does Hell play into this? Maybe a quote from C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce will bring things into focus. “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.” Hell to me seems to be at least in part the rejection of the ultimate possible relationship, one with God, then dealing with the lack of that relationship for eternity.
Are you curious about a glimpse of Hell? I think it is possible that the broken and lost relationships in this life are but an infinitesimal hint of what eternity without relationship with God, or anyone else for that matter, would be like.
Think the Triune God enjoys this? Remember our role in the story. God is the one who has loved us from eternity, He is the one who sacrificed Himself for us so that we might again have life and relationship with Him. He is the standard of love, yet we have rejected Him. If anyone has ever experienced having someone they love (not just feelings, but true selfless love) reject them or completely ignore their love, then you know the helpless struggle of pain that can bring. He is the bridegroom who has loved us with complete sacrificial love while we are the bride who continues to cheat on Him. He is all forgiving and all loving, but in the end He will not force us to love Him, but give us what we want.