Is Hell That Scary?

My life has been a tad crazy ever since I added a new vocation, fatherhood, to my list of vocations as husband and teacher.  Yet, with all the craziness, I would trade none of these roles for anything else.  Why? To borrow my mother’s wise words, “there is something more valuable than gold and pearls here!”  Indeed, there is something very valuable here.  My family is much more valuable than any amount of gold or pearls in the world combined!

When people are extremely valuable to us, we do not wish to be far from them, and we yearn for them when they are not around.  Such was the feeling I experienced two weeks ago when I left my family for five days to go on the March for Life—this was the first time I left as a husband and father.  There was a sense of yearning that was unlike anything I’ve ever felt before.  I missed kissing my wife and daughter good night; I missed kissing them goodbye in the morning as I head out for work; I missed cuddling with my wife as we hold Madison in front of us and try to make her laugh, which most of the time ends up with her looking at us like we’re a couple of loons.  Yet, all of these mundane, and perhaps profane, actions are more valuable than gold and pearls.

And yet again, what if I discovered tomorrow than I will no longer be able to do these things ever again?!  The very thought of this question makes me cringe and sends angst through my soul.  Its reality would devastate my being and perhaps I would really turn loony!  I would rather suffer the most intense physical pain than to be separated from my loved ones.  And this is what I suspect the martyrs understood when they were willing to undergo the most intense physical pains for their beloved Christ rather than apostatize and suffer hell.

So what about Hell?

So what is hell?  There are biblical depictions of hell as a place of great suffering—suffering that none of us would ever want to endure—a place without Love.  And when I was younger, I understood hell to be great pain; pain that is understood only in reference to the body, not the soul.  As I grew, however, I have experienced and understand different types of pain and I think I’ve come closer to understanding the pain of hell.

If St. Augustine is to be believed, and I think there is very good reason to, then we are created out of love and for Love.  Since we are created by God for Himself, we are therefore restless until we rest in Him.  Where and when are we with God eternally?  In heaven.  Where and when are we without God eternally? In hell.

If my love for my family, finite and measurable, can turn me into a mess when I’m without them, then my love for my God, created to be infinite and immeasurable, would torture me in an ineffable manner when I have committed myself to an existence without him for eternity.  So is hell scary?  I would say yes! Yes, it is!  But not the same kind of scariness that we experience from physical pain.  This is a pain that is deep in the soul; a pain experienced from being without someone you love for eternity; a pain from sorrow, despair, and lament.  It is a pain that ought to scare the hell out of anyone!

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