I recently survived six months in a living Hell. More importantly, perhaps, I actually came out of there a stronger Christian than I went in, although the memories can still make me weep.

Let me say right up front: This Hell I’m talking about is not some storybook or Hollywood contrived representation of Hades. This was Hell; the REAL one. You can touch Hell. It can touch you. You hear its disturbingly hushed whispers, strange noises throbbing off in the distance, and unknown shadowy figures moving in and out all around you, just out of reach. Hell is so palpable you can actually taste it.It is a much worse place to be than you have imagined in your most terrifying nightmare. It was the most horrible thing I have ever experienced, and I certainly don’t want to ever have to go back there.Let me describe the Hell I was sent to . . . . . Yours may be different.

Mine was a small, dimly lit, musty room with carpet so filthy I hesitated to walk on it bare footed. It had an outdated motel style bed & dresser, flimsy wood-like desk with loose-jointed chair, fold-out couch that makes into a bed, coffee table, and a small under-counter refrigerator. Oh, yes, there was a portable television on which I could watch programs in a language I don’t speak, based in a city I don’t know.

The room was attached by a series of shadowy underground tunnels to another room, some distance away, where the person I most love in the whole world was being drugged and subjected to the most incredulous torture imaginable. I was allowed in the room to comfort her at various times, when her keepers allowed me in, but she was not able to respond to me in any way because she was in a drug induced coma.

She may not, really, have known I was there at all. She certainly doesn’t remember any of it today. I realized even then, as I looked at her lying helplessly there, this may only be her body, kept alive with drugs and machines. She may already be gone. She certainly could have been taken away from me at any moment. Nothing I did to help her appeared to make a difference. And, the worst of it was the knowledge that she was completely innocent and going through this torture because of me. It was, all, my fault.

I walked through the valley of the Shadow of Death and straight into Hell, where I suffered grief unlike any I had known, and yet, I felt a God given peace that helped sustain me even during the agonizingly heart-wrenching days and nights I served there.

Why do I confess it was my fault? I believe this illness was caused by my pride and stubbornness. Let me explain. When my sons were very young, Lea and I were active with a recent startup Baptist church that was moving mightily in the community. The charismatic young pastor had a vision to create an entire Baptist campus which would include a retirement home for retired members of the church, and he was very aggressive in reaching out to young people in the community. I was so excited about this church that I was on the verge of quitting my job to join their ministry. And, I almost did.

I had been quite successful in soliciting donations of cash and property to the church in support of the building program. Prospects for the church’s success looked very promising. Support from the community was outstanding, and the membership grew rapidly. A large treasury made it apparent that we were going to be able to build that church community quite soon. Then, the minister, his family, and the entire church staff disappeared overnight with all of the church funds.

I was totally crushed. I just could not believe that such a thing could happen! I was completely embarrassed and humiliated, and just could not bring myself to join another church. In fact, I shunned the church for many years. I erroneously reasoned that I could minister alone, using as my justification, Matthew 18:20, where Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” I let Satan turn me from the church.

The Bible teaches that even though Satan cannot possess the Christian, he can oppress him. 1 Peter 5:8 teaches us: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Satan is our enemy .. an adversary who is out to throw us off track. The longer he can keep us distracted from doing God’s work, the happier he is. He is out to confuse us and separate us from God! He was successful in my case.

Scripture is very clear that you cannot accept Christ and then just live any way you please. And, God, our heavenly Father, takes our obligation to serve Him seriously. Like our earthly father, HE will often let us stray a bit to test the boundaries, the way children do, just to see what we can get away with. Eventually, though, scripture tells us that He will bring us back into line by taking us to the woodshed for a good corrective spanking.

The NIV Life Application Study Bible interprets Hebrews 12:5b-6 as, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son.”

When we are disciplined by a loving heavenly father it is to restore us and to teach us how to walk in faith. It is ALWAYS REDEMPTIVE, never destructive! The Father wants us to become mature adult sons and daughters who can be trusted with the responsibilities of our individual ministries. God uses discipline in the lives of His children to help them grow in grace, and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that they might carry out their assigned ministries. I believe this discussion site is a part of my assigned ministry, and I hope you will contribute your comments.

To get the full story of what happened to us during each of those grueling days, click here to view the first entries in July 2005. You must scroll to the bottom of the page to get to the first blog and then read upwards from there. I hope you receive many blessings from this series of messages which were written during her illness, and invite you to share your own experiences with our readers. God bless!