The Bible tells us that in hell there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. There will be unquenchable fire, separation from the loving and gracious tri-une God and it will be forever. And “forever” is a concept that is nearly impossible for us humans to understand since we live in a temporal, finite world where God is with us if we but reach out and call upon His name.
To me, hell sounds like unending misery at the highest level. There will be no relief and eternal darkness in hell. When physical and emotional trials push us beyond the breaking point in our lives, like the pain of an acute injury or death of a loved one, perhaps we may start to imagine what hell might be like. Fortunately this level of anguish in our lives tends not to continue for the rest of our lives. Often there is a measure of relief at some point. When that relief comes we can also be grateful that the Lord is merciful, that joy may return if we but keep our eyes focused on Him. While He promises that He will never give us more than we can handle, the only way to “handle” the acute level of misery is with Him. Don’t we all say it no matter what our beliefs, “God help me!” His presence in this life is a supernatural, mysterious phenomenon. It is also an indwelling benefit (through the Holy Spirit) when we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
My personal hell began in the wee hours of the morning on July 6, 2013. My husband, Steve, and I had just driven 16 hours through the night from our home in Indiana to visit family in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We had made 2 longer stops, some shorter stops, and were grateful to finally arrive at 5:00 a.m. EST. We were also glad that his parents had made it from their primary residence in California to this second home just hours before us and had left the door open. But when I stepped inside the door I sensed some mustiness and fragrances that might not go well with my Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome. I had made an attempt to let them know my sensitivities before our trip but I guess it wasn’t sent through the proper channels in a timely and meaningful manner for them to act on the information.
I helped Steve unpack the car and did a quick scan around the house. Yes, the carpet and fixtures were older and the place had remained vacant for most of the past year. Someone was hired to keep it clean and that may have provided other issues from the chemically-laden cleaning solutions. The bedspread and bed skirt were cute but appeared dusty so we removed both and put them in the closet. I saw decorative aromatic sticks on a shelf in the bathroom with scented hand soap in a dispenser on the sink. The mattress in the guest bedroom was uncovered and appeared older but we couldn’t do anything about all of that at that late hour. I put our own clean sheet over the top sheet on the bed and Steve opened the windows. Gratefully, the air was cooler overnight in this shady part of Hot Springs Village, Arkansas. We prepared for bed and hoped for the best. We were trashed from travelling for sure.
Within a few seconds the seizure attacks began. Oh these weren’t the usual kind where my body shakes uncontrollably from my torso through my limbs, I can’t breathe, and I may or may not groan in discomfort as my head whips forward and backward or side-to-side. This time the movement was so violent that my body was lifting up and down from the bed repeatedly! The chest compression-like tightness was so bad that it restricted my breathing painfully so; I wondered if my heart was beating at all! The violent attacks lasted about 20 seconds each and continued with a 30-90 second break in between each one. I had no idea when the next one was coming! I gasped to catch my breath. Steve was in horror. He had bad attacks before many times before but not this bad!
I could not speak, move, or do anything to help myself. I held on for dear life. Aware that my father and mother-in-law were sleeping in the next room, I struggled to keep from vocalizing during the episodes. Finally anguish broke through and I could not stop myself from sobbing uncontrollably. What a wretched episode to have to endure!
In my own strength, I developed a plan. I was feeling nauseous and vomiting appeared imminent. If I started vomiting, then I would blurt out through the seizure attacks for Steve to call an ambulance! So there. I had now identified what I considered to be the worse-case scenario and what we would do if it happened. With that in mind, I held on a little longer . . .
There was no indication that my living hell would ever stop. I could not find a way out on my own. I had caught a glimpse of hell on earth and it appeared that I was stuck there indefinitely. Dear Lord, I’m coming home!
See, “To Hell and Back: Back by Grace (Part 2)” for the conclusion of this blog post.