You know the prevalent image of demons torturing souls in hell? What do you make of it?
Many people believe that demons torture souls in hell, others that it is the devil himself, yet others believe maybe it is an Angel or even God himself punishing people. But, all these are wrong, and it probably is because many of such images do not consider the essence of hell.
What is hell really and why do people go there?
People who die with mortal sins in their hearts are condemned to hell for all eternity. Put another way, people who hide from God’s mercy and refuse communion with him are “left” alone for all eternity. Hell is the state of being “left alone”; of eternal solitude. The most painful part of hell isn’t not seeing a family member or a former lover, but of being barred from communion with God who is the sole object of our soul’s desire. While on earth it might be difficult to perceive properly but our hearts are actually created to cling to God, to look for him and to find joy in possessing and being possessed by him. While we are on earth we sometimes approach this quest the wrong way. We sometimes make other things into God and when we are hurt we turn around and blame God for not giving us the power to grant mere objects the power to make us eternally happy. We blame him for not giving us freedom enough to confer divinity on inanimate objects. So, we wage war with our lives and bad choices hoping to hurt God. Granted not everyone’s life is a direct rebellion against God, but everyone who mortally sins, throws God away from their lives. There are many shades and areas to each person’s moral life and choices though, however it all boils down to one thing: people who rebel against God till death, do not have God in the next life and this is what hell is.
So, who tortures souls?
Each soul in hell makes himself suffer; each person is his own demon so to speak. Imagine how difficult it is for many people to forgive themselves when they do something horribly wrong. How people even end up committing suicide because of their bad choices. Then imagine that at last, the veil is lifted and the soul sees that he has lost the Infinite Good, the most beautiful possession in existence; he has lost Existence himself. He feels a rush of infinite, but self-inflicted pain, he is unable to forgive himself so, he go ahead to punish himself forever for losing an eternal God who loves him with an eternal love.
“the damned will suffer in both mind and body, because both mind and body had a share in their sins. The mind suffers the ‘pain of loss’ in which it is tortured by the thought of having lost God forever, and the body suffers the ‘pain of sense’ by which it is tortured by the thought of having lost God forever, and the body suffers the ‘pain of sense: by which it is tortured in all its members and senses’ – Baltimore Catechism, lesson 7. question 380
You could imagine a mother, after going though labor, strangling her baby because she was stressed out and couldn’t handle it’s crying. Imagine the guilt she must feel, how she can never forgive herself, then multiply it by infinity and you’re not even anywhere close to the pain a soul in hell feels for losing God. God loves everyone, he loves even Satan, because God’s love never changes. What changes is us. The souls in hell aren’t remorseful for their sins though, they are self-involved so they hate God and punish themselves for all eternity.
“God is the infinitely good and merciful Father. But man, called to respond to him freely, can unfortunately choose to reject his love and forgiveness once and for all, thus separating himself for ever from joyful communion with him. It is precisely this tragic situation that Christian doctrine explains when it speaks of eternal damnation or hell. It is not a punishment imposed externally by God but a development of premises already set by people in this life. The very dimension of unhappiness which this obscure condition brings can in a certain way be sensed in the light of some of the terrible experiences we have suffered which, as is commonly said, make life ‘hell.’” – Pope St John Paul II
Conclusion: God loves us no matter what sins we may have committed. It is insulting to think that we are capable of conceiving a sin that can be bigger than God’s infinite mercy. Nothing we may have done is ever bigger than his merciful heart. All we need do it stop damaging our souls, ask him for mercy, receive sacramental pardon with the full resolution to work on ourselves. Even though we keep failing, we keep struggling, fighting and resisting temptations and their occasions. At last, we will be shown mercy and saved. Hell isn’t God’s product, it is the product of creatures: of Satan as well as man’s. It is a state of abandonment, so while we are alive, let us seek communion with God through his Church.