How do you see life here in this world? Are you optimistic? Do you cherish the good times but understand they may not last forever? Do you have a clear understanding of your role in this world?
Or perhaps you see life as mundane and empty without purpose or meaning. You look around and see a society that is a sin-soaked cesspool delivering an endless onslaught of evil, injustice, and heartache such as:
- Sex trafficking
- Broken relationships
- Disease and illnesses
- Tragic accidents
- Natural disasters
If you think about it, we could be living in Hell now. But that would depend on your definition of Hell.
“…while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 8:12
Hell is a world that is littered in sinful and destructive behaviors. It’s a breeding ground that serves to create pain, hurt and agony. Hell is dark like our desperately sick hearts when we elect to be deceitful and dishonest with ourselves and others. It is a place where we can easily hide so no one sees our shame.
That indeed sounds a great deal like this place we call home doesn’t it? All of us have a sinful nature even if it doesn’t show in our behaviors. While we can control our actions, therefore appearing to be righteous, we can’t do the same for the sinful desires of our hearts that are generated with thoughts and emotions. Envy, greed, lust, pride, gossip, and revenge are just a few of the troublesome sins that lie within us.
“Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” Ecclesiastes 7:20
In Hell, those sinful ways are considered the norm. My guess is it will be survival of the fittest with the strong and powerful preying on the weak. Again, doesn’t that sound like the world we live in today? It does. But this world is not Hell for one simple reason. Hell is a place where God is non-existent.
And God exists here in our world.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
That is what separates our world from Hell. It is the knowledge God is alive and available to us. Although He will not grant every request or answer all prayers, He is a God who is good and cares for our well-being. He weeps at our sorrows and offers us hope when things look hopeless.
As a Christian counselor, I often hear people say, “if God is so good why is there so much suffering?” It’s a great question and no one has the definitive answer. Yes, we live in a broken world. But why doesn’t God fix it? Yes, we have free will and therefore we have the ability to make poor decisions that have destructive consequences for others. But why doesn’t God fix us?
I really don’t know. But I do know this. God created us to be in a relationship with Him. He wants us to one day walk in His presence and share in joyful things He has created. But we have to finish our time here first. And in doing so we have to endure the pain and suffering that is similar to what can be found in Hell. So how do we deal with the emotional and physical pain that sometimes never goes away?
We turn to our God who watches over us.
Although our suffering may be endless while here on earth, it will end one day. That day may occur in our lifetime, or it may not happen until our death when we stand face-to-face with Him on the Day of Judgment. But it will end. Tomorrow is coming and for that we can have hope. We know there will be a better life with no sadness, no negative emotions, no physical aches, no trauma. Just love, joy and peace. It’s coming and for that we can have hope.
You see, that is what separates this world from Hell. In Hell, there is no hope because God does not exist. The individuals residing there had their opportunity to say “I want to walk with God”. Instead, they said “I will walk on my own”.
Dallas Willard, a philosophy professor and well-known author said, “Probably the simplest way to understand Hell is as a cosmic junk heap. You can get in a lot of arguments about the details, but the basic fact is that there are some people who just can’t stand God. That’s the way they are in this life, so he doesn’t force his presence on them in the next. I don’t think we should regard God as happy that anyone goes to Hell. Scripture tells us that “it is not his will that any should perish.” But he does permit it. That is a testimony to the great value that God places on human personality. He values it enough that he is prepared for people to be eternally lost if that is what they want.”
It is sad to think there are individuals destined to live eternity enduring similar and worst suffering than we have come to experience during our time in this world. But what is more tragic is to know that in their suffering they will lack the most beneficial and important coping tool we have available for us now – hope. For without God there is no hope for change. And without hope, suffering is intensified and never-ending. Without hope we remain stagnant and never reach the growth potential He desires for each of us.
Yes, this world is rough and what it throws at us is difficult to manage at times. But when we believe God exists and is for us, not against us, we can use that hope to help deal with the suffering and disappointment. Because tomorrow is coming. And it’s coming soon.
“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” Corinthians 5:7