Everyday Radical: How God Feels About Letting His Children Go to Hell

my son is sucking on his bear even as he sleeps.

he’s only 18 months old and his cheeks are red as apples and i didn’t know being a mother would be this hard.  elizabeth stone says that having a child is like watching your heart walk around outside of your body, but it’s more than that: it’s like watching your heart tiptoe near the edge of jagged cliffs, all day long, and you only have two arms and two legs and no matter how hard you try —

you can’t get there fast enough. you can’t save them.

and maybe you can keep them safe for awhile, but you can’t save them from hell, ever. you can’t save anyone from hell, ever. you can only pray that the grace of God finds them.

and there’s all kinds of grace--50 shades of grace, you could say–and never has this been more clear than in the movie, Reservation Road. have you guys seen this movie? spoiler alert: it sucks. big time.

oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s very well done. and a stirring storyline, and you’ll stay glued to the edge of your seats and you’ll fall in love with the characters.

but it sucks.

because a little boy gets killed in the beginning. and that’s when you fall apart, watching that car hit him and then.keep.driving.

the guy doesn’t stop. and the little boy’s father, oh, how he breaks, slowly, the way guys often do, the way they often consume grief like they do a steak–slowly, savoring the taste, whereas women, we tend to consume quickly. we’re fast and emotional and then we’re back in business, because there are things that need to get done.

and you watch the stories of these two men: of the man who lost his boy to the hit and run, and of the man who committed the hit and run. and you see their lives intersect, and you see how horribly both have been tormented–one by loss, one by guilt–and when they finally confront each other, and witness the sorrow in each other’s face, it’s almost, grace.

but grace sure hurts like hell.

sometimes God gives me pictures in my head of what he’s like. visions, so to speak. and i often get them when i’m running. the other day, i asked him to show me more of him. and i saw him, all three of him (Jesus, Abba, and the Holy Spirit) sitting in their thrones, but then all of a sudden, the thrones crumbled away.

and as they were crumbling, i looked behind them and saw the smoke of Hades, rising. and then i turned, and i saw God the father’s back was scorched from the heat of the flames. he was sitting so close to hell that he could feel the heat. and he was hurting because of it.

and when i looked at his face, he was crying, and he said,

“you never stop caring about your children.”

God is justice. God is love. he lets his children be punished, but he also enters into the punishment with them. feeling their pain, and mourning their loss. forever.

and i’ve told my husband, no matter where my children go, like Ruth, i will go with them. (not in a creepy kind of way, of course…) if they ever end up on the streets somehow, and refuse to come home, i will camp out beside them. because my life is entwined in my children’s. they are my heart. walking around outside my body.

and we are God’s heart, walking around outside of his.

and when we get hurt, oh, how it hurts him.

it hurts like hell.

[Photo:  60dn, Creative Commons]

  • Ruthie Dean

    Beautiful. Oh I don’t even know what to share, but your words, this truth, struck me like a knife to the soul. I often see God as a cruel taskmaster, waiting to punish me. I live in fear of disappointing Him, of making Him so angry He’ll take away people closest to me. What a beautiful picture of the Father’s love–that He is burned from the flames of hell because he never stops caring about His children.

    Oh thank you, Emily. For these beautiful words.

    • Emily Wierenga

      dear Ruthie, i’m so glad you shared this with me tonight. i’m so glad our Abba father revealed himself to you through this post, friend. he is so good.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brittisgood Brittany Alexander

    Oh this is beautiful and heart stirring. Yes, grace hurts but oh how beautiful it is. Thank you for consistently showing me love and grace. Xoxo

    • Emily Wierenga

      our Abba father just adores you, sweet brittany. xo

  • http://www.redemptionsbeauty.com/ Shelly Miller

    You have put skin on the love of Jesus for His children today. Thank you Emily, this is beautiful.

    • Emily Wierenga

      oh shelly, i love how you worded this. and what an honor, to be able to somehow do this for our Lord… bless you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/katherine.nanninga Katherine Nanninga

    Thank you for this Emily. I have been learning to trust that God doesn’t want our loved ones to fall any more than I do. I’ve been learning to step back rest in His strength. and it’s scary! and it hurts like hell, and it feels like death and sadly sometimes it is death. And sometimes the only thing that helps is trusting that God is good and that He is scorched by the pain too… I’ve often wondered how He can just sit back and watch this all happen, how He can endure or why He would chose too. Thank God, He has chosen to meet me there! Late one night, feeling like death, God met me there and He let me know that while we are standing on the jagged cliffs, or even tumbling down them, He, at that very moment, is working in the moments where He will heal and restore and redeem those wounds. He has incredible plans for the things we experience and if we are willing to follow He will show those plans to us. So maybe rather than praying that our children, our family, our loved ones will not fall, pray that they might experience Gods power and strength to get back up and follow Him into redemption…. something that haas been on my heart!

    • Emily Wierenga

      i love your desire to fall into the arms of God and wrestle with the good and the bad while letting him hold you, friend. it’s not easy. but we’re safe there.

  • Elizabeth Stewart

    Stunningly beautiful post.

    • Emily Wierenga

      thank you dear Elizabeth. xo

  • HisFireFly

    and yet we continue to pray, Lord break our hearts for the things that break yours, then lose our breth when the pain hits…

    • Emily Wierenga

      YES. when will we learn Lord? and yet, we are human…

  • http://twitter.com/NatalieTrust Natalie Trust

    This is beautiful. I want to say much more than that, but you’ve said it all so eloquently here. Thank you.

    • Emily Wierenga

      I so appreciate you saying so, Natalie. It was very much a piece inspired by God. Bless you.

  • http://www.natashametzler.com/ Natasha Metzler

    yes. yes. yes.

    • Emily Wierenga

      :) thanks natasha… so glad it resonated.

  • http://www.undergraceovercoffee.com/ Andrea Mitchell

    This is so amazingly beautiful in its truth.

    • Emily Wierenga

      thank you andrea. peace to you, friend.

  • Christabel Martey

    This is a beautiful picture of showing us how much we are loved by our Father. This year hasn’t been easy for me because I am learning to trust God all over and allowing Him to lead me. It hasn’t been easy because, for so long I have tried to do it on my own. I am learning to listen and obey His voice.

    God bless for this piece

    • Emily Wierenga

      oh Christabel, stopping right now to pray for you. bless you.

  • http://www.nebraskagraceful.blogspot.com Michelle DeRusha

    Your writing always leaves me agape (in a good way), Emily. Beautiful.

    • Emily Wierenga

      thank you michelle. it’s all him. love you.

  • http://sandraheskaking.com/ Sandra Heska King

    Oh! Just oh!

    • Emily Wierenga


  • 1lori_1

    Stunning…beautiful and full of Grace, His Grace…..Just now I am struggling to understand how my folks can still enable my 57 year old brother…..this helps me understand a little bit more. Thank you Emily.

    • Emily Wierenga

      i’m so thankful to God for allowing me to speak to your heart like this… thank you for sharing. e.

  • Sam

    Watching your child or sibling walk down a path that is wrong breaks a parent/sibling’s heart. We been through hell and back and still it isn’t over yet. We never stop praying but our hearts keep on grieving. It helps to know and believe that God won’t ever give up on that person and that He will do whatever it takes to get them back; even if it means they must walk down a long lonely road first. Sometimes He lets them go through many trials in order to bring them back to Him and where they should be. He uses these painful days, months and years to teach us and grow us. I bow down every night in earnest prayer for my lost one.

    • Emily Wierenga

      oh Sam. joining you tonight in praying for your lost one. i have tears in my eyes. i can’t imagine how painful it is.

  • Diane Bailey

    Oh Wow, Emily…oh wow!

    • Emily Wierenga

      bless you diane! thank you. e.

  • Jessica

    Emily, this speaks to me…so profoundly. So touching. Thank you. I so needed this. On so many levels. Just….THANK YOU!

  • Lynn Mosher

    Oh, my! Emily, so touching. Even with a heartful, how do words spill out? Just so very special.

  • Emmie

    Emily, I cannot tell you how much this writing touched me. I have a 19 year old who has chosen/been put onto a very hard road. Much of this due to abuse of biological father but much I take blame for. A constant “if only,” plays out in my heart in terms of this first born of my womb and heart. He is out in the world now, wandering and trying so desperately to find his way. He does not believe in God, and I just pray with every fiber in my being that love finds a way to shine into those stubborn shadowy corners. I am often reminded of psalm 139 (If I make my bed in hell, you are there) and how TRUE that our hearts follow our children wherever they go. There is not a moment that he is not with me although he is thousands of miles away. I love your writing and love you(though we have never met) for being a conduit of such far reaching grace. I tried posting before but it didn’t “go through” so I hope this is not a duplicate. Thanks so much again.

  • John

    Yeah but our loving God isn’t going to burn in hell with those that go there. God is all powerful. He can do what he wants. he could save his “children” from burning in hell if he wanted to. It’s impossible for me to comprehend the God of endless love and mercy locking me in a furnace because I don’t see how it’s possible how he loves me. It also destroys any ability I have to share the “good news”. If he doesn’t want anyone to go there, he is powerful enough to get rid of hell. Make it not exist. at least not forever. I’m torn in multiple directions.

    I’m told to love God, so I try. So I love & trust him.

    Then I look at thousands of people every day that are going to hell, my love diminishes,

    my ability to tell people about the “good” news of Jesus disappears. I can’t point to Jesus and say “trust him or burn forever”

    That means.. Good works are non-existent

    faith without works is dead. so.. I’m dead.
    I grew up with the faith, and desperately want it. appears to me, that I’m incapable of believing in hell which means I’m a heretic, or a false prophet, and gods gonna let me rot in hell for that.

    I’m barely holding onto the faith, and its purely out of fear. but its funny because perfect love casts out all fear, yet.. God is perfect love. Hm.

    If my mom had superpowers, (like God) and she saw me burning in a fire. She has enough power to pull me out, but she chooses not to because she doesn’t love me.