As a pastor, I’ve heard some heartbreaking stories. I don’t cry easily, but I have wept over some of the stories people have told me.
I’ve prayed with people. I’ve prayed for them.
And sometimes I walk away after journeying with someone through a tough time and think “I’m not sure I’d be able to handle that.”
One of the phrases we use is that a person in a terrible circumstance is “going through hell”. I’ve heard other people say they don’t believe in hell because nothing could be worse than what some people have gone through on earth.
Read through our scripture passage again today. Notice that in verses 24-26 it becomes clear that there’s a big separation between heaven and hell.
Do you know what real hell is? Evil with all traces of love and good removed.
If you’re going through a horrific time, the difference between what you are going through today and what hell is like is that right now you have access to love. You have access to mercy. To forgiveness. To grace. To kindness. And even to forgiveness and healing.
In hell–real hell–all of that is gone.
Again, these aren’t fun things to think about. But the toughest conversations can lead to the greatest transformations.
If you’re angry at God because of what you’re going through, why not today try accessing some of the mercy, love, kindness and grace he is offering you today.
Your circumstances might be excruciating, but God’s mercy is not removed from you. He loves you.
Belong – Because you can belong before you believe.
Think of a time when you were going through ‘hell’. Were there still traces of love and mercy around you at the time? What does that tell you about God’s love for you?
Believe – Because those who belong often start to believe.
As tough as life can be, God’s love for you is constant. And his kindness can lead you into a relationship with Him. What good can you still see in this broken world today, and how does that help you deepen faith?
Become – Because those who believe can become someone new.
This isn’t hell. As you walk alongside people going through “hell”, empathize with them but also ask God to help you see the mercy, grace and love that is still available to them and to you. Share it with them.
Gracious God, I thank you that everything good about you is still available to us. You love us, and you offer us healing, redemption, mercy and kindness. Help me to receive that today.
– by Carey Nieuwhof