May 14, 2020 398 0 Jon Cotter

The Tipping Point

On the Road to Hell

“I am ready to go to Hell,” I thought. “Why not? God hates me. I hate God. I hate everyone. Most of all, I loathed myself. I wished I had never been born. My life was devoid of hope, joy, and meaning. Every year was worse than the last. I felt trapped. Eternity in Hell was not a future destiny for me. It was an ongoing, present reality. I believed the pains of Hell would be awful, but living with pain, although horrific, can become tolerable. After all, some people live with chronic pain their whole lives. So, I convinced myself that I could deal with being in Hell forever. Life is full of suffering, so I thought Hell would just be more of the same. At least, in Hell, I could finally be free from God.

I did not believe that God was a personal, loving God. I believed God’s involvement in the universe was like winding up a clock and walking away. I did not want to love or serve Jesus because I did not trust Him. I made my own plans to be successful and happy, but they did not include God. As time passed, my dreams failed to come true. Although I worked harder, life got worse. I was doing things my way, but I was miserable.

So, I started praying earnestly for God’s help, but only for the great cosmic Santa Claus to give me what I wanted. Despite my prayers, my life became a long series of failures. God did not submit to my desires, so I became angry and bitter. I asked God for help, but He always seemed to say,“No.” I concluded that God was mean and selfish. I exhausted myself trying to follow my dreams, but instead of achieving success, I kept losing jobs. Every year, I made less money. My life and my dreams were disintegrating. The harder I tried, the further I got from my goals. I blamed God for making my life as miserable as possible.

I gave up on God, the Church, my family and myself. Hate stormed within me like a hurricane. My relationships with my wife and children collapsed. I began to drink heavily, and I isolated myself from everyone because I could not stand people. I would spew torrents of criticism, profanity, sarcasm, ridicule, and contempt at my wife and children. Self-contempt and anger became my closest friends. As my life became darker, I stopped praying altogether, and I started to blaspheme.God was the enemy. He was responsible for my horrible life. My selfcentred life was spiralling into the abyss.

Next, my health started to fail. In the space of two years, I developed low thyroid hormones, lymphoedema, and sleep apnoea. I began to lose vision in both eyes, so ended up havings even eye surgeries. I lost depth perception, became claustrophobic, had trouble walking, and had panic attacks. Eventually, I was no longer able to work. I was a broken man, reduced to a fearful wait for death.

I told my wife I was ready to go to Hell. To her credit, she remained calm. She told me that if I was going to Hell, I should do some research on Hell. Thank God for YouTube, I found a talk given by Father Ripperger on Hell entitled The Four Last Things: Hell, Heaven, Death and Judgment. Before hearing this lecture, you could have written my knowledge about Hell on a post-it note.

As I listened, I had to pause at the twelveminute mark. I needed a break because I was overwhelmed. I did not want to hear another word and sat with head bowed head, covering my face with my hands. Eventually, I screwed up my courage to continue listening. If I intended to become a permanent resident of Hell, I needed to brace myself for whatever was coming next. It got worse, much worse. After forty-one minutes and forty-nine seconds, Father Ripperger finally concluded.

Did God allow me to Suffer?

I closed my eyes and begged God for mercy. Father Ripperger literally scared the Hell out of me. I came to a stark realization that all the sufferings of my entire life were not equal to being in Hell for a few seconds. I begged God to allow me to live long enough to receive the Sacrament of Penance. However, the earliest opportunity for Confession was three long days and four very dark nights later. Since it had been a while since my last Confession, I divided my sins into categories and wrote them down on a full sheet of paper, so I could remember them all.

When I was finally able to relieve my anxiety by confessing everything, the newly ordained priest who heard my Confession quietly murmured, “Wow.” As he absolved me from my sins, the amazing grace of God cascaded abundantly over me, filling my heart with peace and love towards God, freeing me from the crushing fear of hell.

I finally realized that I was the source of my suffering, not God. My suffering led me back to God. If I had been granted a quarter of what I wanted, I would have continued on my merry way, forgotten God altogether and wound up in Hell. Mercifully and lovingly, God allowed me to self-destruct, so that I could receive the greater gift of His mercy. I thank God now for all my suffering. It was a gift from God.

God’s grace changed my life completely. Instead of intense hatred in my heart, I now have love for Jesus and all people. Although my dreams have not come true – I am still unemployed; my health has not improved much; relationships with some family members are still damaged; I still have bouts of anger and struggle with depression – now that I trust in God, I have hope for the future and for my eternal destiny. I am better than I used to be, but I have a long way to go. By God’s grace, I will become the person He wants me to be. I cannot do it without Him. Even though my past sinful conduct was never what God wanted, He can take the ruins of my life and rebuild something more splendid than anything I could ever imagine.

Rule out the lies

Many people have suffered much more than I have. My adversities pale in comparison. For people who suffer so profoundly that it can seem that the sole purpose of life is to suffer and die, I do not have any good answers for you other than to say, “I am sorry.” Am I saying that horrific torment is your fault? No, but your tribulation is not in vain. It can be offered in union with Christ’s unspeakable and undeserved agony. Our earthly life can be cruel and incredibly painful, but although it seems that our misery will last forever, we are only here on this earth for a very short time. Put your trust in God who will render justice for every evil ever committed and restore those who suffered with infinite love and grace.

God will make all things new again (cf Revelation 21:5). “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Although none of us want to endure any sort of pain, there is no way to avoid it. Some people disobey God’s commands in a vain attempt to evade discomfort or enjoy some dubious pleasure. Often, the consequences of their decisions cause them greater anguish. We would like our lives to be continuously happy and easy, as it will be when we go to Heaven. If our lives on Earth were blissful all the time, we could become apathetic and forgetful of God. “If God loved us, He would not let us suffer” is a lie from the pit of Hell. We are often willing to endure hardships in our professional lives, or for a sporting goal, while expecting that our faith lives will be easy and problem free all the time.

Hang on till the end

I am not trying to minimize your pain. I pray for people who suffer. However, Peter’s words resonate with me, “Lord, to whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) Without God’s love, we will have no joy or peace.

Do not leave the Church. Hold on to your faith. Keep praying and talking to Jesus who knows your hardships better than anyone. No matter what comes your way, do not abandon the source of love, peace, hope and joy. In the eternal darkness, there is only hate, fear, despair and torment.

It is not easy to endure misfortune, but in Heaven all sorrow will vanish, and eternity will be gloriously filled with unimaginable happiness. I remember in the past being irritated by those happy Christians talking about finding joy in the Lord Jesus, and I thought they were a bunch of hollowheads. Listen to someone who has hated God. Jesus is the answer and His Church’s sacraments bring us hope and healing for our distress. Suffering does not get the final word.

Lord God, we thank you for your unending grace and mercy which you lavish upon us. Help us to face the battles of life with strong faith in you. As we bear the sufferings of this life, we look to a future filled with hope. Amen.

Jon Cotter

converted to the Catholic faith at twenty-three. After twenty-six years as a “practicing” Catholic, he officially re-converted to the faith at forty-nine. He attends St. Monica Catholic Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Jon was a Special Education teacher until he had to resign due to medical issues. Jon has been married for twenty-six years and has five children who range in age from fourteen to twenty-four. He can be reached at [email protected]


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