Lian Yu (Purgatory)
Before Christ we were trapped by sins in an eternal death. The Roman Catholics believe Purgatory is a state in between death and heaven where you expiating sin prior to entering the gates of heaven. This is the atoning for sin meaning to pay for or redeem. While the idea of there being a purgatory is highly controversial we won’t be getting into that debate. I am by no means trained well enough to go down that rabbit hole and open that can of worms. Instead, the purgatory we will discuss is the one inside our own minds, and the situations we find ourselves in. If purgatory is a form of prison it can be postulated that your own mind can be a prison. We know this because we have thoughts we often don’t want to, we remember things that bring feelings of pain of hurt. We often find ourselves in situations that bare similarities to those that we’ve been through before, almost as if history itself is being repeated. For some, being trapped in the past is the worst kind of Hades we can have. For others they get themselves into situations that are trouble over and over again. While I don’t believe this is a form of punishment while on this earthly plane of existence, I do believe that if we are repeating the same mistakes and we aren’t learning from them, then perhaps God is trying to get us to pass the test to move on. Other times we go through the same thing over and over because of our own choices, even if they are destructive.
I myself have experienced purgatory. When I returned from Iraq I found myself constantly expecting the next IED to go off, constantly scanned every place I went for insurgents trying to blend in. Every shadow there was the enemy lurking just waiting to attack. Then the thoughts came back of the war. All things considered I’d say my platoon and I were lucky. Yes we took casualties, but as many times as we were attacked the damage was superficial and rarely caused any injury. Even though that was the case, the attacks and the feelings that were left behind, where in fact imprinted and left behind for later reflection. Over time it felt as if those memories would show up and torture me at random. It felt as if I were a prisoner to them, my own personal purgatory.
In the last few years I’ve known several people who’ve gotten themselves into ruts of destructive behavior. They would claw themselves out only to get to the top of the mud hill and as soon as they got out, stand up, stretch, turn and swan dive back into the thick of it. One would guess they loved being in that destructive cycle. The truth is it’s harder then people think to break free. Once we are mentally trained for something it’s very difficult to break that cycle. There are a lot of factors that can play into it, where you live, your friends, the music you choose to listen too, even some shows you may watch. (Disclaimer: No I’m not blaming movies, or music, or video games for bad behavior. However there is enough evidence that some, i.e. a small percentage of the population are susceptible to suggestion from these outlets.) The truth is our hearts can and will be influenced by the things we surround ourselves with. Eventually it’s like ingesting small amounts of lead over time. It may not kill us right away, but eventually we will end up with lead poisoning. It’s best to avoid that stuff when we can. Find positive and influential things to fill your life with, either, friends, movies, churches, music, whatever it may be, as long as it’s going to lift up, rather then manipulate behavior in a negative way. 1 Peter 4:15-16 “15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. 16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.”
So all that being said, how do we avoid entering into purgatory? Well, in a religious sense don’t be habitual sinners. If you are mean and cruel to people and bad things happen to you, chances are you brought that upon yourself. By changing our focus and changing our hearts and minds, giving up and sacrificing our worldly self to Christ, we can then move forward cleansed and free of old sins. Our daily walk should prevent us from entering into man made, self-made perpetual prisons. A purgatory for your mind is harder to achieve. Sometimes we have no control over the trauma’s we endure. I have always been a firm believe of a two pronged approach therapy. The first is for your mind, to actually work on the event that caused the issue. The second is for your heart, and that’s a spiritual journey by someone in the clergy. We can’t have one without the other because we must take care of both the heart and the mind. Both will influence the other, and both have to be in a healthy place and a healthy balance. Don’t allow yourself to be held prisoners by the horrors we may face. Find your spiritual footing and allow those people in ministry to help you. Do not create your own purgatory, instead allow yourself to freely walk away leaving everything behind that held you in chains. Repent for your sins and within that repentance remember it’s not just saying you’re sorry, it’s making an action to make up for the mistake. Mark 5:4 “because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him.” Jesus freed us from the bonds of sin, and the eternal damnation that followed for it. It takes strength and dedication to overcome the chains of the world, the lustful desires that bind us to our prisons. Fight the sin urges, flee from sinful drama, and seek Godly counsel when in need. Always has if what you are doing glorifies God, and if you don’t think it will, or wouldn’t talk to your pastors or priest about what you are thinking of doing, it’s probably not a good idea to do it.
We can’t always help what happens to us, we can’t always help the scars it leaves behind, but how we choose to handle each of those situations, where we choose to get help for them will be the defining factor as to our eternal future. If life gets hard and you choose to turn to the bottle chances are that bottle will become your purgatory. If you choose to turn to the counsel of God, you’ll undoubtedly have better luck. Don’t create your own prisons, and don’t go searching for purgatory.