As a Christian, there are certain things that I hear repeated rather often. “Jesus died on the cross for you,” to whatever extreme it may be presented at the time, is the most common one. Also on the list are things such as “God will never leave you,” or “He’ll never give you more than you can handle.” All of these things are good things to say, meant to comfort a Christian when he/she needs a bit of comfort to get them through a tough situation. It all boils down to this basic sentiment, which I also hear a lot in varying phrasings:
The only peace that can overcome the struggles of this world is the peace of Christ. Trust in Him, and He will get you through this situation.
It sounds good, right? “Focus on Christ, and you will find peace.” For some people, this is easily done. They really do put all of their focus on Christ, and while this doesn’t erase their problems, it certainly helps them get through it. Focusing on what WM. Paul Young, in his book Cross Roads, calls the “life-after” reminds them that this life is only temporary, and a greater reward waits for the one who endures.
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For me, though, there’s one problem that no amount of comforting can solve. It’s what I consider to be the most difficult part of being a Christian. It’s the belief of conservative Christians that those without saving faith will be condemned to hell for all eternity.
Wow, am I really posting this on the internet? Yes, I am. You see, it’s something that Christians don’t like to talk about. After all, it’s certainly not a nice thing to broadcast to the world. “You don’t believe in Jesus? Have fun in hell!” At this point, several of you will point to the Westboro Baptist Church as a counter-example. They are an exception, certainly, and I don’t approve of their actions as a whole. But we, as a Church in general, tend to shy away from this touchy subject.
Perhaps that’s a good thing. I honestly don’t know. But for us who believe in hell as a place of punishment, the reality is there. And for some of us, it’s the most frightening thing ever. I’m not even talking about it as a punishment for us personally. After all, I know that I’m saved through my faith in Christ. It’s scary because of what it means for other people, especially those close to me.
I have family members, close family members, as well as several friends, who have fallen away from faith or have, quite simply, never had it. The knowledge that they’ll be suffering for all eternity certainly isn’t easy for me to deal with. No amount of cookie-cutter Christian comfort can ease this worry. Truth be told, I have no idea how to deal with this knowledge. It’s just there, weighing me down, and I can’t remove the burden from my mind.
Some people would say that I should witness to them more. They might accuse me, saying it’s my fault for not working harder for their salvation. Screw you. You think I haven’t tried talking to my family about this? One problem I face is that they’re people who have been through Christianity and have chosen to shed it as a snake sheds its skin. They already know what it’s about and have made their choices; how can anything I say change their minds?
Again, I hear the soothing words of a pastor: “Just trust God. He’ll make things right.” Not everyone comes to faith, though, so where’s the comfort in that? They may never be saved.
And where do I take this knowledge now? To the cross? I honestly have no answers. If you’re looking for a happy end to this article, you’re out of luck. It’s not coming. There’s comfort in my salvation, for sure, but that doesn’t help me with this problem.
We may try to avoid it, but the reality for us is this: It’s all or nothing when it comes to the “life-after” …and so many people have chosen the nothing.