How the Fear of Hell Made Me Want to Be Holy

fear of hell and love of god

It constantly happens that the Lord permits a soul to fall so that it may grow humbler, when it is honest, and realizes what it has done, and returns, it makes ever-increasing progress in our Lord’s service. -St. Teresa of Avila

I’m not sure how I fell away from God. The best way I can describe it is like that friend from high school that you were close with, and did everything together, and you truly and genuinely believed you would be friends for life. Then you went to separate colleges, you became an adult, and life just happened. And even though you know what’s going on in their life because of social media, you realize it’s been years since you have actually talked to them on the phone or in person.

Losing Touch with God

That’s how my relationship with God slowly fizzled. I had fallen deeply in love with Him in college during a silent retreat my senior year. After I graduated, He just seemed like a distant friend who fell out of touch. I knew God was around, I felt Him calling many times. But it felt awkward. Too much time had passed, and I was embarrassed I had not maintained my side of the relationship.

He tried so many times to reconnect, but I would flake out on our dates, or cancel at the last minute. Sometimes I would come around when I needed a favor, but then a few weeks later I would conveniently start missing His calls again.

Yet, I missed Him. I felt a void and I knew it was God that I needed. But I did not quite know how to re-start a relationship with Him.

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Coming Face to Face with Hell

Then one day, I stumbled upon an article about descriptions of hell from various Saints. As I read through the different quotes describing these gruesome and evil scenes, a sense of panic and fear fell over me.

My heart began to race, and in that moment, meditating on the word “eternity” struck me in such a way that completely took my breath away. Looking back, God had tried so hard to bring me home, but I ignored everything, so He used holy fear. I feared spending an eternity in hell.

In that moment one thing became clear—I had to go to Confession. And I needed to reconnect with God and my Faith.

Coming Face to Face with Jesus in the Confessional

I looked up when our parish would be holding Confessions and decided I would make it a priority. I had not been to Confession in three years. So the night before, I completed a thorough examination of conscience and wrote down everything—I wanted to be ready.

The next morning, I woke up and prayed to God that He not let me miss Confession, and that He allow me to spend some time alone with Him in prayer. Not surprisingly, God came through.

I had planned to take my 13-month-old son with me, as our closest family lives two hours away and my husband would be at work during Confession times. Having just moved to a new city, we did not have anyone else we trusted yet to look after the baby. However, unbeknownst to me, God had already arranged for a babysitter. My mother-in law called to say she was driving up for the day to visit—I was able to get away to Confession alone.

As soon as I walked into the lobby, I noticed there were a lot more people inside the Church than I would have imagined. I thought maybe it was a Rosary group, until I walked inside and found that I had entered during Eucharistic Adoration. I knelt to pray and found the line for Confession at the back of the church.

As I was standing in line, I realized how God made all of this happen. He had given me this opportunity to spend with Him. While I waited for Confession, I updated God on my life, what I was worrying about lately, and where I wanted our relationship to go. It felt good to reconnect with Him.

Staying Close to the Lord and Becoming Holy

After Confession, I asked the priest if it was wrong to suddenly want to pray, return to Church, and be closer to God because I was so fearful of spending eternity in Hell.

“God works through everything, even fear,” he said. He reminded me of 1 John 4:18. “’There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…’ although God called you through fear, do not worry. It has brought you back, and God will continue to work on you through love…welcome home.”

Three points that God made clear to me in the days and weeks that followed were:

1. Confession is key to spending eternity with Him.

As practicing Catholics, we are required to attend Confession once a year, particularly during Lent. This is the minimum, though. Why not go above and beyond and make Confession a habit? Too often it was the “little” sins, sprinkled throughout the weeks, that added up and caused me to feel unworthy of answering God’s invitations and calls. Go to Confession often. Don’t wait for Lent, just make a date with God and go now. God wants us to spend eternity with Him. Answer His calls!

2. Don’t miss your scheduled dates with God.

Be present at Mass and during your daily prayer. I used to think that I was not gaining anything from Mass. The homilies are boring and I don’t get anything out of them, I used to say. Once I began to understand that my relationship with God is give and take, it became clear that Mass is not just what I can gain or benefit out of it. It is also a chance for God to spend time with me too. It is a chance for me to give to Him. Daily prayer is the same. i\It’s not only a chance for you to connect with God, it’s also a chance for Him to spend time with you. He looks forward to it. When you care about a person and their relationship, you would never just no-show for a scheduled meet up, so don’t do it to God either.

3. Spend time with Mary.

God filled me with an urgency to pray the Rosary and spend time with Mary. Find ways to pray the Rosary daily, whether it be a decade scattered throughout your day, sitting down to pray during your lunch break, or when your child is taking their nap. Meditating on the mysteries of Jesus’ life has been a game-changer for me in truly understanding my worth and the ultimate sacrifice that was made for me. Through the Rosary I have been able to connect with Mary and ask for her prayers and advice regarding the daily struggles I face as a mother, wife, and daughter. Set a time to get to know Mary and meet her in prayer, too.

Have you ever felt distant from your Faith and God? How has God called you back? What has He made clear to you when you return Home?

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Jeanette Macias lives in Southern California with her husband and 13-month-old son. She worked as a social work counselor for children with developmental disabilities before becoming a stay-at-home mama. She loves connecting with other moms to talk about the struggles and joys of motherhood, brunch dates, and listening to a good podcast. You can find out more about her here.

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