Hell is a difficult place to go to. I made this comment a couple of blogs ago in the context of Pauline’s contest with temptation (in Charles Williams’ Descent Into Hell). As someone commented on that blog entry, such a thought is counterintuitive.
Jesus’ words seem to say exactly the opposite: “Wide is the gate and broad is the way,” Jesus says, “that leads to destruction, and there be many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” According to Jesus, the way leading to life is difficult, not the way to to destruction. So what do I mean by saying that hell is a difficult place to go to?
One thing I mean by saying this is that God does not let us go to hell without warnings. One has to intentionally ignore and eventually “sear as with a hot iron” his or her own conscience, shut out the voices of those who love (even a little), and refuse to learn from the pain-filled lessons of life in order to eventually find oneself lost in hell. God does not desire that any perish, so God has done and continues to do all He can to guide us in the right way. God does all He can do as God, which means that he doesn’t lie to us. The red flags tell us the awkward, uncomfortable, painful truth. Temptation lies. This is where its power comes from. And here is the profound irony of our sinful ways: we choose the lie knowing it’s a lie and knowing that the temporary sedative temptation offers will be paid for with greater suffering later. We know it, yet we choose it. Surely hell is a difficult place to go to.
Another thing I mean by saying this is that no matter which way you go, it is difficult. Notice Jesus did not say that the path leading to destruction was easy. Since the curse in the Garden, no one gets through life without a lot of suffering. In fact there is a certain sense in which you can say that life in a fallen condition is already hell for beings created in the image of God. “In sins did my mother conceive me” ; death has been pressing in on me from my very conception. Certainly one can say that for those who are choosing darkness, life in this world is a hellish foretaste of things to come; while for those being saved, life in this fallen world is the shadow of the hell they are escaping. The road to hell is difficult, and so is the road to salvation: they are just different kinds of difficult. Or perhaps better, the same difficult with different sauces.
The narrow path is the difficult path with humility; the broad path is also the difficult path but with pride. The truth requires humility for it reveals that I am a creature, a fallen creature. The darkness lies. It says I can hide and pretend to be whoever I want to be. I can pretend that I am good, I can pretend that others exist to serve me, I can pretend that it’s not my fault (it’s “that woman you gave me,” as that first Adam put it).