Summary: Is there something worse about Hell than the flames?
Many are concerned about Hell fire. It bothers them that God would make the unsaved suffer for their sins. My personal perspective is that the flames are not the worst part of Hell and may actually be an act of mercy. People are amazingly resilient in physical suffering. People who suffer from pain often have wonderful attitudes and even manage to have joy. People who have gone through torture as POWs or persecution as a Christian often emerge as stronger and with a better perspective on life than those who have lived on easy street.
Yes, physical pain can be managed, in a sense, by the mind and will of the person. However, mental pain is another story, A person can be in the best of physical health and have good surroundings with people who love them and yet be in mental pain that nothing seems to reach. Medicines do not help. Counseling goes nowhere. Love poured out by family and friends rolls off them with no effect. That pain is only mitigated by sleep and sadly even then horrible dreams may disturb that only respite.
Proverbs 18:14 The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?
Scripture affirms our observations of people in physical and mental pain. In many cases, guilt is the cause of the mental pain. Even in women who have been raped or suffered under an abusive person in their life suffer guilt. They feel they were somehow at fault or deserved what happened to them. It is extremely difficult to get them to release that false guilt.
Guilt over past sins haunts many people, even Christians who know they have been saved from their sins by placing their trust in Christ cannot get over past sins and it only gets worse with any sin they commit because it just unleashes the deluge of past sins in their minds. Some are still functional and others are nearly paralyzed by their guilt.
Dr. Jay Adams recounts incidents where guilt had lead to physical manifestations of the guilt. One lady was actually paralyzed from her guilt of having an affair while her husband was serving overseas. Once she confessed to him and he forgave her it was a “take up thy bed and walk” moment. She had been to doctors who could not find a medical reason for her infirmity because there was none. Once guilt was resolved she was no longer bound physically.
Another man was in a hospital in a catatonic state where he was basically in the “hundred yard stare” that is often used to describe what battle fatigue of PTSD looks like in a person. He was not responsive to anything and so he was just wasting away. One of Dr. Adams' students sat before the man and just talked about sin and guilt telling the man that unless he confessed he would likely be in that hospital until death. Tears started streaming down the man's eyes and he started confessing that it started with failing grades in college. The stress from that made him act a little funny and people had pity on him and tried to keep him from being stressed. Well, it just got worse and worse because he used the actions to assuage his guilt of not studying until it got him into this hospitalized state. He did not want to tell his parents that it was his fault he was failing and that just kept the guilt growing and the actions odder. The man was able to leave the hospital after his confession.
Mental pain is far worse than physical. That is what the worst part of Hell will be. You will live your life over and over again for eternity remembering every sin you ever committed and worse every opportunity you had to be saved and rejected it. Indeed, when you get to the part when you stood before the Lord at the last judgment and saw the love Jesus had for you in His eyes that would be the straw that broke the camel's back sending you into insanity if it were possible.
Habakkuk 3:2 O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.
Hell was made for satan and his angels. We do not think of spirits being able to feel pain, but God can create a fire that will cause them “physical pain”. Their mental or guilt pain will be far worse than any human because they dwelt in Glory and indeed, satan was the covering angel so their guilt is exceedingly great.
Yet, in humans that fire may be God remembering mercy in the midst of His wrath as Habakkuk requested. The physical pain may well be a means of mitigating our mental pain. It may distract us somewhat and even occasionally giving a brief respite from our worst pain. Since our guilt, in a sense, not as great as the fallen angels in that we have never been in Glory as they were and rejected Him, He may have some mercy on us making our time in Hell not as bad as theirs. Still, whatever our level or intensity compared to theirs Hell will still be Hell.