I Haven’t Been Through Hell

You hear it all the time. On public transport, in your workplace, on the television news your social media timelines. You may even have uttered the immortal words yourself.

I’ve been through hell….

Hell. The Underworld. Hades. Sheol. Whatever people call it, for those who believe in it, it is a place of unimaginable, unremitting torment. But what is hell? Where is hell? There are various theories. Some view it as the traditional lake of fire populated by grinning ghouls with pitchforks. Others picture it as a lonely, desolate chasm of darkness where tortured souls suffer the ultimate horror of eternal separation from God. To these people it is an actual, physical location. It exists. Somewhere.

Whatever their interpretation, all these folk are agreed on one thing. It’s not the sort of place where you would want to spend your summer holidays. Or any holiday for that matter. It is a place of perpetual punishment and pain. A place of no return. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200. Or dollars or euros. There is no glowing ‘exit’ sign to guide you out the other side after your visit is complete. Hell is the end of the road. And it’s not a yellow brick one with a fairytale ending.

I’ve been through hell….

As a Christian I believe in an afterlife which contains a heaven and a hell. I haven’t quite got my head around what the latter looks like but I’m pretty certain I don’t want to end up there. Many people view Jesus as some loved up hippy who wandered around 1st Century Palestine waffling vaguely about peace and forgiveness. Yes he did talk about these topics but the one he talked about most was hell. He was pretty blunt on the subject as well. This was one pill that wasn’t sugar coated. Hell was real and hell was permanent. He came to warn us. Hell was….well….hell.

I’ve been through hell.

You don’t go through hell in the theological sense. You remain there. It’s a one way ticket. The big, red guy with the pitchfork kind of expects you to hang around. Permanently. Life can be hellish. Excruciatingly painful. But it’s not hell. Because life eventually ends. The curtain comes down and, whatever your circumstances, they end. No more need to worry about debt, despair or death itself. You don’t have that sense finality in hell. You don’t die in hell as you’re already dead when you get there. You don’t get the relief and release of death.

Real life is hellish. But it’s not hell.

Real life can be horrific. It’s crushing. Nothing I can write here can do justice to what you have been through or are presently experiencing. An individual’s pain is personal and unique. It is often indescribable. It is many things. But it’s not hell. Because hell is a place without hope. And as long as we have breath in our bodies, then we still have hope, no matter how tiny a scrap that is. Hope that we will overcome our private and public struggles. Hope that we will lurch out of the darkness and into the light.

I’m not devaluing anybody’s pain here. I see devastation and anguish on my timeline and in the real world every single day. Broken people surveying the debris of their broken lives. They deserve so much better, so much more. I want to tell you that there is more, and that that more is hope. No matter how dire your circumstances are there is a way out. There is a way through. All storms can be navigated. There is safe passage and harbour.

Your hellish state might be addiction. It could be alcohol, cocaine, heroin, prescription drugs. It might be physical. Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis or any other number of debilitating and agonising illnesses. It might be mental. Depression, Anxiety, Anorexia, Bulimia or, my own personal bugbear, OCD. It can be financial, sexual or relationship based. It can be bereavement. It can be anything really, a billion and one different situations or experiences. Everyone’s ‘hell’ is unique to them.

There is a way out, a way through. If you have hope, you have a lifeline; one that you have to grab with all your strength and cling to with all your might. Hope is life itself. It is the oxygen that fills your lungs and allows you to scream your defiance. It is the blood that pumps through your veins and drives you onwards, forwards, upwards. It is the oil that lubricates our dreams and prayers.

Hope won’t get you through Hell. It will be too late then. But it will get you through everything else.

Do you believe in an actual Hell?

Do you feel hopeful or hopeless today?

Hell v Hellish? What are your thoughts on this post?

45 thoughts on “I Haven’t Been Through Hell

Add yours

  1. Theses are my beliefs about the subject of hell.

    There are hundreds of verses in the Bible that say God will destroy the wicked. Destroy does not mean live forever burning in hell. Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
    “The soul that sins shall die.” Ezekiel 18:4 Death and hell are thrown into the lake of fire at the judgement. (Revelation.) There is an end to the punisment of the wicked.

    “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an
    oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” ” And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts.” Malachi

    “But the wicked will perish; the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.” Psalm 37 There are hundreds of verses like these.

    Now, there are a few verses that sound like hell will last forever, but that is not their meaning. The final effect of hell, the second death, will last forever. The wicked will never rise again, as they did for judgement day. It says the smoke of their torment rises forever. Smoke is an after affect of a fire. We will never forget what sin had done to those people.

    Have you ever noticed how poetic the Bible is from start to finish? I doubt the fire of hell is a real fire. It could be, but I think it describes the mental suffering the wicked go through when they realize what they have lost and perhaps feel the same pain they have given to others. God said, ” For the day of the LORD is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head.” Obadiah 1

    I could never love or worship a God who tortured human beings forever. I would not love or worship a God who would do that to a dog, cat or mouse.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In the book of Revelation John clearly writes that the wicked dead brought up out of their graves in the second resurrection; who encompass the camp of the saints (the new Jerusalem bride of Christ) are to be destroyed by fire poured out by God Himself.

    The last chapter of Malachi informs the reader that the wicked shall be reduced to ashes both root (satan) and branches (those who follow after satan) upon which the righteous shall walk.

    This is called the second death which is eternal and once the world is cleansed by hellfire it will go out and our world will be recreated and become the capital of heaven.

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  3. Well written Stephen. Far too often the topic of eternity without God is simply not discussed, reducing Christianity to just another feel good about yourself self-help venue. What needs to be taught, as I try to, is for us all to consider the full nature of God and His character. Yes, He is all-loving, kind and merciful, but He is also perfect holiness and justice. He cannot abide sin, hence the necessity of the sacrifice of Jesus to save the otherwise lost. We do a dis-service to everyone when we do not discuss the fullness of God.
    Thanks for writing this,
    Chuck

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  4. Great post! As a Christian I DO believe there is a hell. Like the comment by Chrissie, everything has a polar opposite. There is a heaven……and a hell.
    I’m feeling very hopeful today! I serve a God who loves me and has never given up on me despite all the times I’ve turned my back on Him. God is so good!

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  5. Most of us get fixated including me when we go through dire circumstance in our lives. And yet the Bible said that none of this is incomparable to what God has promised us. I don’t know if you believe in near death experience, but a lot of them who came back proved it that it is true, that the joy and love they felt there is incomparable. Not only that, regardless if they went to heaven or hell, their perspective in life and the way they live totally changed.

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  6. I personally find the duality/polarity of Human thinking to be problematic. I don’t know that everything in the bible is as literal as it’s taken to be. So, I see Hell as something personal, not necessarily something that can be “gone through” but something that is an internalized experience. And I don’t think it takes real, physical, corporeal death to go to Hell. There must be a reason for the expression, “something in me died that day.” Perhaps something of our souls does die or come alive via lived experiences. And those experiences do give us the experience of “living through Hell” or experiencing “heaven on earth.” But, then, perhaps this perspective denies the literal concepts of heaven and hell, those which I’ve disavowed because they’ve only been used to persecute me. And I don’t think that’s what a loving God would do.

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    1. That’s a very well constructed and thoughtful answer. Thank you for taking the time to write it. Do you still read the Bible? I have had some horrendous experiences with organised churches and ‘Christians’ as well. I have a very lukewarm relationship with both

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      1. No, aside from the occassional scripture here and there, I don’t. I did just come across this rad church group though… so, I’ll see how that plays out.

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  7. You are so right. So many say “It’s Hell Right Here On Earth”, I don’t think so. As you stated things can get pretty hellish or some may think hell can’t be any worse than this, oh but it can. I know where I want to be when I leave this life and it is a place of peace and serenity not one that offers eternal suffering. Wonderful post.

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  8. I am not sure i actually believe in actual hell? I was bought up a catholic, went to catholic primary and secondary school. Went to church every Sunday until i was 16 when my parents let me decide whether i wanted to continue going.(I stopped going). However the point i find myself at in my life at this time is definitely my version of hell. I wander round with my head in constant turmoil. So if hell is a state of mind then i am firmly there at the moment. I feel hopeless every day for the simple fact i am lost in this world. I do not really know where i fit in if anywhere?? This may sound a drastic statement but i feel this is the only way to describe it. Where am i going? What am i doing? Will i ever recover? Will i ever be happy with my life? All these questions bombard me every day and drive the hopeless thoughts.
    I love all your posts Stephen they create many questions the resonate with me. Keep up the good fight…… Peace and Love Matt

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    1. I was raised a Presbyterian and, like yourself, decided to stop going to church when I was old enough to make my own mind up about it. I’ve only started going back over the last four years or so. I have been in that version of hell. I have been consumed by the voice. It has been alcohol. It has been OCD. It has been counting calories. It has been unhealthy relationships. I write now to tell lost people like you that you can break through it.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Yes! Hellish…but life is never as terrible as Hell since in life there is always the opportunity for things to get better, to make better choices, etc. But as you so wisely say, Hell is a one way ticket … and there is no way out. Scary thought when I consider that some laugh about the idea of Hell and may, in fact, even choose that route. Great and thought-provoking post as always.

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  10. Just want to make clear I didn’t write what I did to be argumentative. You asked what we believed about hell, and I told you. I don’t expect all of us to interpret the Bible the same. We all have the freedom and right to believe what we want.

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  11. I do believe in hell, and I also agree that saying we’ve gone through hell is exaggerating something that is thought to be the worst torment to ever be experienced and it will be this way for eternity. I’ve gone through some ‘hellish’ times this year…but I’m still blessed by so many things. My family, my students, my home, my pets…none of that is in hell. Like you said, this doesn’t diminish at all what people go through…maybe a better term would be “It’s been like a hell on earth” or something of the kind. And what I like most is that our earthly ‘hells’ aren’t forever…that’s very hard to see sometimes, but true. xoxo

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  12. It’s interesting hearing stories about people who didn’t believe in God who had died and came back to life completely changed after experiencing some form of Hell. There are stories of the latter also, people who had experienced Heaven. From what they have described, there are levels of Hell and of Heaven, which makes sense given that some people will be honored or punished more than others. The worst part about Hell isn’t the fire or gnashing of teeth, it’s the absence of God’s presence. Even on the darkest places of earth God’s presence is still there, we don’t know what it feels like for Him to not be present to some degree. That to me is terrifying and utterly lonely, to be cut off from God.

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