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DOES GOD SEND US TO HELL?

“Hell is a state of separation from our Creator, our Comforter and our Savior.” Patrick Slevin

One of the main attacks on Christianity and God Himself is the cynical question, “If God loves us so much, then why does He send us to hell?”

Unfortunately, too many Christians fall into the trap of digging into Scriptures to quote verses, which is frankly unpersuasive to non-believers and barely inspirational to believers who may hold doubts about their impending deaths.

My response and belief is this, “God doesn’t send us to hell, we send ourselves to hell.” We send ourselves to hell when we choose to ignore the living God (the Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) over the course of of our lives. God loves each of us so much that He will give us every chance to turn to Him. He even gave us His only Son to die for us. Yet, He won’t force us to love him, it’s our choice – it’s called free will.

“God doesn’t send us to hell, we send ourselves to hell.”

Patrick Slevin

When I was 19 years old, I was a non-believer who made a desperate plea for God’s help to save my life. Mind you, during this period, I had some knowledge about a Christian God and a Savior, but for me, that was a foreign notion that didn’t serve my purposes. I had no need for God and adhering to religious mind control. I ignored every invite to church and Bible studies from friends.

Then something happened to me when I was 19. It was the summer in Upstate New York where I was vacationing in Lake George. I had won an all-expense-paid trip to Lake George sponsored by my employer Kirby Vacuums. I was a door-to-door salesman and I had sold so many Kirby’s that I was one of the elite new salesman in the entire Northeast and won the trip.

It was a great party atmosphere with my fellow Kirby associates and winners. I decided to join a group boating out to the middle of the lake for parasailing. The group was comprised of Kirby salesmen from the Bronx who were a few years older.

They were boasting about how much tougher New Yorker’s were from the Bronx than anywhere else (I’ll come back to that in a moment). So, when we got to the platform, the director asked who wanted to go parasailing first? No one raised their hands, so I stood up and was lifted up above the lake.

Little did I know that a 10 minute ride would turn into a spiritual journey that would last for nearly 45 minutes, changing my thinking about God.

“God I’m not afraid of dying, but I don’t want to die today, please save me!”

Patrick Slevin

At the beginning, it was a scenic experience. Not a cloud in the sky and the sun shining off the lake, surrounded by the majestic Adirondack Mountains. Half way into my ride, a storm cell unexpectedly blew in over the mountains bringing torrential rain, lightning and tropical storm force winds. This happened in less than a minute and it swept in so fast that the crew members never had a chance to pull me down to safety. It was the end of the world.

As I was being pelted by the rain and lightning cracking all around me, I went from about 150 ft over the water at a 45 degree angle, now straight up to over 300 feet. I looked down to the crew pleading in vain for them to reel me in. I could barely see them, but it was obvious that they were struggling to keep the line from snapping from the tension, and me flying into the side of one of the mountains. I kept slipping farther away.

Then everything went to hell. My parasail that was bobbing above my head, suddenly got caught in a downdraft, flying past me and then pulling me, feet over more head, straight down toward the water. Then just before crashing into the lake, an upwind reversed my direction, taking me straight back up toward the storm clouds. I was a kite in a hurricane.

I was fearful for my life! The parasail was ripping and the lightning getting closer and the crew looking farther away. I knew that I was going to die. I decided to turn to God at that moment of realization.

I began to pray. I said to God, “God I’m not afraid of dying, but I don’t want to die today, please save me!” God obviously heard my cries for help and He sparred me, after 40 minutes stuck in the crucible. When I finished my prayers and pleas, a crack in the clouds showed the sun! The storm began to subside and I was no longer fearful of dying.

When I was reeled back in by the crew, I fell unto the platform, exhausted but exhilarated and I said to the director, “Are all your rides like this?”. The director said in response, in an adrenaline crazed voice, “Man, you almost kissed the face of God, because we didn’t think we were going to get you back!!”

As I went to find a seat back in the boat, I noticed the scared looks of those guys from the Bronx and I said to them, “So which one of you are going next?!”

Each one of them said no flipping way and we boated back to shore. So much for tough guys from the Bronx!

The moral to sharing my near death experience, that truly happened, is to punctuate that God is there for us. He loves us and He will give us every chance to have a relationship with Him. You only need to seek Him out and I promise that He won’t let you down.

God has so much more to offer than to answer pleads for help. He is there to help us grow in our faith and have a deep, meaningful relationship with Him.

A word of caution and awareness: For those who choose not to let God into their lives, then you’re choosing Hell now, not just after the Judgment, but also during this life. That may sound harsh or judgmental, but stay with me for a few more paragraphs for a greater point.

So what is Hell?

Jesus experienced Hell as He was on the cross. As He took on our Sins, Jesus experienced the separation from His Father, which had to be Hell for our Savior. Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). I will blog about why this had to happen and its significance.

“Hell is a state of separation from our Creator, our Comforter and our Savior.”

Patrick Slevin

In closing, Hell is not an imaginary, fiery pit where we are tormented for eternity. It’s much worse than that. Hell is a state of separation from our Creator, our Comforter and our Savior in this life and in the next reality.

For those who choose to avoid, ignore or scorn God, you will have freely turned away from your God. When we’re called by Jesus in the Judgment, it will be too late to change your mind.

For those who think there’s a loophole with accepting God on your death beds, how sure are you that you will have that chance? How certain can you be that one decision at the end is enough to whitewash a lifetime carrying a character hostile toward God? Do you really want to gamble your soul?

Odds are when you see your maker, He will not recognize you as one of his own, because by your decisions, you will have put yourself into Hell knowing that you turned your back on God. Never the other way around.

It’s not a sure bet for us believers either. Trust me, we can never take the love of God for granted. We must endeavor to develop a character that’s Christ-like and a light in this world for others to follow.

We all suffer the trials and tribulations of life. No one is excused from pain so I encourage those who are indifferent or unsure to pray and see what happens. I assure you, if you sincerely make yourself vulnerable to God, invite Him into your heart that He will be present, and you will begin to see His blessings that will change your life both here in this world and I pray in the next.

Don’t wait to be a kite in a hurricane, but rather turn to God asking Him to give you still waters of hope and redemption in this life and the next.

God Bless.

The Day I Cursed God

I knew once I fell asleep that I would soon awaken to a nightmare.  Twenty-four hours earlier, I swore that sleep was my enemy, and I would never trust it again.  Its seductive call was no longer a safe passage to dreams of a hope and promise.  Instead, sleep had become an undertaker, digging deeper into my soul and burying what was most precious in my life. 

Despite my best efforts, my eyes eventually betrayed me, where I drifted away from my despair.  That’s when the critical care nurse entered the hospital bedroom.  Just a few hours earlier, I met this very sweet angel of mercy, but I wanted nothing to do with her.  If I didn’t see her again, then that would mean that everything would be okay.

But that wasn’t going to happen.

When she came into the room and turned on the lights, my heart sank, and I realized that at 24 years of age, my worst fears were about to come true.

As I looked up from the chair, she delivered two words that would change my life forever.

“It’s time.”

So began the longest walk of my life. 

As I entered the ICU, I found my six-week old infant daughter, Mary Catherine, carefully swaddled in blankets, her body still warm, but dying.  

Her life support was turned off, which I authorized due to no brainwaves and failing vitals.  My wife and I were to be notified by the nurse when it was initiated. 

I gently lifted Mary Catherine to find disconnected tubes dripping bodily fluids that appeared to be blood coming out from the bottom of her blankets. I should have been repulsed, but it didn’t faze me. I had to be with my little girl as soon as the life support was turned off. 

We were in a curtain drawn room, which had a hint of light coming in from the unmanned nurses’ station across the hallway.

Mary Catherine and I were alone. 

An eerie silence throughout the unit surprisingly struck me.  The machines that were once blinking, oscillating, and beeping, were now quiet, which amplified every sense of my being to the point overwhelming my balance and ability to stand.  

As I found a chair, I looked upon Mary Catherine, holding her carefully, tenderly in my arms. I began to softly kiss her forehead.  However, this intense, surreal, moment was interrupted by a sensation I’ve never felt before or since.  I felt like I was falling out of the chair, but my body wasn’t moving. 

I momentarily slipped into what I can only describe as an out-of-body experience.

I floated above the room and found myself looking down at this young man holding a baby girl behind some curtains, tucked away in the darkness, quietly crying. This young man had fought so hard to gain a family to care for and love. 

He had endured poverty, overdosed on drugs, dropped out of high school and had been homeless.  Yet, somehow he beat the odds and was worthy of family to raise and care for, or so he thought. 

His world was slipping through his fingers as he was holding his dying baby, who the night before was a healthy, vibrant, and thriving infant full of life.

For a moment, I convinced myself that I was watching someone else, but I quickly realized that the young man was me and that dying infant was my daughter. 

Then with the force of a cement truck, I was painfully slammed back into my body where I found myself uncontrollably crying and desperately kissing my baby whose life was rapidly fading.

I was determined to make my little girl’s last moments be showered with love and daddy giving her as many kisses as he could.

As I was kissing her, I realized each kiss became more important, more intense and more tearful, than the one before.

I kissed her for a lifetime of love that only she could give;

I kissed her for every day that I would be without her;

I kissed her for those days I complained about midnight feedings;

I kissed her to hear her cry again;

I kissed her for her mother who loved her and the family we dreamt about;

I kissed her for the days my arms would ache to hold her once more; 

I then began to uncontrollably pray out to God, pleading, arguing, and begging for a miracle.

“It’s too soon.”

“This should not be happening.” 

“God, she’s my baby girl.”

“She is my little hedgehog.” 

“Come back to me, Mary Catherine, please come back to me.”

“I love you so much.”

“Don’t leave me.” 

“I must be dreaming.” 

“I must wake up.”

“God, please hear me.”

“You can save my baby.” 

“Don’t take my little girl. I love her so much.” 

“My heart is broken and shattered to pieces.” 

“I’m her father and I’m supposed to protect her, even from you God!” 

“You gave us Mary Catherine and you cannot have her back.”

“I’m supposed to go first. Please take me, not her.” 

“I cannot stop kissing her.  I never want to stop kissing.” 

“Please God, bring my little angel back.”  

Then finally her lifeless body went cold and she was gone. I kissed and hugged her one last time and whispered to her that “Daddy will always love you.”

Then I handed her limp body over to the nurse who was holding back her tears for a father she never knew or would ever see again.

A few weeks later an autopsy confirmed what the medical staff suspected.  Mary Catherine Slevin became the latest victim of a silent killer called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). She was born November 27, 1992 and she died in the loving arms of her father, during the early morning of Saturday, January 9, 1993. 

***

Mary Catherine’s service was held in the same church where I was married nearly a year before.  However, I felt far from being a newlywed.  As I was watching the church services, my mind was overwhelmed by a flurry of thoughts and emotions that began to build a chilling snowdrift of anger.

My first thought sitting in the pew was that this was unnatural.  I’m supposed to die and be buried by my children. Instead, we were gathered together to put to rest an innocence that didn’t deserve to die. 

During the service, my wife sensed I was unraveling a bit, so she took my hand and squeezed it to bring me back to the service.  I looked over to her and gave her a nod that I was okay, but I was far from being okay, my grief was getting worse. 

As the funeral service began to wind down, I found myself cursing God under my breath, who, ironically, I accepted into my life just a few years before.  But now, I didn’t want anything to do with Him. 

The dominoes began to fall hard from there. 

The days, weeks and months that followed, my wife and I were constantly arguing. I was fearful that my ungodly past was catching up with me like some kind of curse: That I didn’t deserve to be a father or enjoy the love of a family that I had always longed for.  Family was the one ideal that kept me going through the darkness and despair of my life before I found Jesus and accepted Him as my Savior.     

What became the breaking point for me were the flood of medical bills.  How am I going to pay for them?  Thousands and thousands of dollars in ER, physicians, lab work, and ambulance bills for two hospitals were now months past due.  We didn’t have health insurance.  Mary Catherine died just two days before our health care benefits would have kicked in.

As it would turn out, my wife was returning from her maternity leave to begin a new job that Monday after Mary Catherine passed on – the benefits would have kicked in on day one.  I was attending night school and working as a copy clerk for a law firm in St. Petersburg. The last thing we had was money and no way of attaining it to fend off the relentless bill collectors.

Attorneys at my office counseled that I should file for bankruptcy. 

“Bankruptcy, are you kidding me?! I didn’t get married last year and have a child so I can end up a loser with the stigma of bankruptcy following me for the rest of my life!” 

The threat of bankruptcy, likelihood of divorce, and being alone for good pushed me over the edge. I couldn’t handle anymore, so it was time to have it out with God.

I drove around Clearwater, Florida looking for a secluded stretch of road.  I pulled over where no one could see or hear me, and I unloaded on God.

I started out by telling God that I hated Him for taking Mary Catherine from me and told God to go to hell.  But that didn’t come close to satisfying my anger toward Him. 

I continued my attacks by accusing His love was indeed conditional and that he should go fuck himself.

My heart grew heavier, but my anger sustained my cursing Him out. 

I got louder.

I got angrier.

I got blasphemous.

After spewing every word of hate toward God I could muster, I began to feel my life withdrawing and my heart turning into ash.  It was the lowest I’ve ever been and I was going for broke by taking God down with me.  I was pretty sure that I had just bought a one-way express ticket to hell and I didn’t give a shit. 

Then something profound happened that I never expected, nor will I ever forget. 

As I tried to catch my breath for another round, it suddenly dawned upon me that the God that I just blamed, cursed and damned was the same God who could help heal me.  I tried to shake off such an unexpected notion, but with no success.  The thought grew stronger to the point where I could no longer ignore the revelation overcoming me: That the God that I’ve turned my back on is the very same God that could heal my deep wounds.   

This realization came from nowhere and it was heavy in the air.  In that moment, I realized my misery was in direct relation to my shutting out God.  The source of comfort that I needed the most, I had pushed away since Mary Catherine’s death. 

I couldn’t believe it, but I found myself now asking God to love me and help me love again, and to be the man I needed to be for my family.  Once I ended my prayer, a prayer that began in hate, but now ending with my profession of loving Him; I physically felt God’s love wrapped around me.  It was intensely wonderful, and I cried again, but this time with tears of joy, saying repeatedly how much “I love you, God.”  So just like that, I found comfort in knowing that I could express my anger and rage, and He would still love me. 

What began with tears of anger, now had become tears of love, hope and praise for our Lord and Savior.  I drove back home with a renewed spirit, but financial challenges still remained.  

The very next day, my wife called me at work informing me that her OB/GYN had an unexpected check for $1,500 to pick up.  The doctor mistakenly overcharged us for the pre-natal care visits and that she was refunding it to us.  This check would put a nice dent in paying down the medical bills, but something even stranger happened.

The bill collectors suddenly stopped calling.

Apparently, someone anonymously paid off all our medical bills totaling over $10,000.  It could have been my mother-in-law, family, friends, or possibly the attorneys at my law firm.  To this day, I honestly don’t know who paid for these bills, but I’m eternally grateful.

***

These events literally happened within days of my having it out with God and then asking for God’s love, forgiveness and help.

I became curious on what the Bible had to reveal about what had happened to me.  I believe that the Holy Spirit guides us more than we can imagine, so I randomly opened it up and it revealed Ephesians Chapter 2, Verses 3-5:

(3) All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. (4) But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, (5) made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 

As a grieving man who fell hard while carrying his cross, I gained wisdom concerning my faith.  First, through the grace of God, I came to believe that faith is indeed a gift that we must seek out, and when we get it, to grow it by sharing it.  Second, it’s not God’s will for us to suffer.  That’s a false narrative, believe me.  God loves the sinner and hates Sin. Third, it was humankind that turned away from God who did nothing wrong.  Yet, He continues to love us, despite the countless times we fall short.  I’ve learned that God will always be ready to love, forgive and bestow a loving Grace that endures.   

Is God living in your heart? 

If your answer is no or you’re not sure, ask Him to come into your life. You don’t need a minister or a Bible verse to teach you how to do it.  Note: This advice goes equally to Christians as well as non-believers. Sadly, there are so many Christians who have studied the love of God, but who have never experienced it nor have an intimate relationship with Him. 

All you have to do is quietly express in a prayer that you want that close and loving relationship with Him.  I promise God will not let you down.  He loves you so much.

For me, the Word of God is Love and we all need to communicate His love to both the believer and non-believer.    

I look forward to reuniting with Mary Catherine to let her know how much her short life profoundly helped me grow as a man, husband and father, but most importantly, solidify my love for our Lord Jesus Christ.   

***

In 1996, Patrick Slevin was elected one of the youngest mayors in nation at 27 in the Tampa Bay city of Safety Harbor, Florida. He would become a father of two more children, Brendan and Kathleen.  Today, Patrick resides in Tallahassee, Florida with his family. You can read more about his insights on faith and endurance by visiting his blog at www.EnduringGod.com.