Hell. We spend so much of our lives trying to avoid it.

For some, hell might be losing somebody. To death, to break-up, to mental illness… does it really matter how the person is lost? They’re absent. They’re gone. They’re no longer there, and it leaves a cannonball-size hole in the middle of your barely beating chest.

To others, hell is financial. It’s staring at a glowing light bulb, knowing that tomorrow the power company will be taking that glow away from you. It’s knowing that your next paycheck won’t be enough to buy food for your children. It’s praying that your car can make it just a few more months before permanently giving out on you. It’s a pile of past-due notices and credit card statements, stained with tears and permanently unopened.

For others, hell is physical sickness, injury, or ailment. It’s the worry and stress of unknown or untreatable disease that constantly haunts you. It’s painful treatments taking the place of the fun and amusing things you used to do. It’s the inability to use parts of your body that you always took for granted. It’s wanting to stay in bed because remaining prostrate is much more alluring than getting up and feeling whatever has attacked or crippled your body.

The personal hell for many is abuse. It’s being dishonest with your mother about the bruises that cover your once pretty face. It’s lying helpless, pinned to the ground as a man rapes you. It’s hating yourself because the person you once loved most in life unleashes a verbal assault of name-calling and filth in your direction.

For some, it’s never finding a person to love at all. It’s watching the minutes, years, and decades of your life tick by and never having a partner, a best friend, or a spouse to stand beside you. It’s being alone at every birthday, holiday, and special day. It’s finally giving up the hope and the search, believing that you are destined to spend eternity alone.

For some, it’s being bullied. For some, it’s being demoted or fired from work. For some, it’s witnessing a great trauma or disaster happen.

For a great many it’s depression. It’s the inability to be happy, even when the heart-pounding want is there. It’s feeling worthless and insignificant. It’s wondering if death might be a sweet replacement for the refuse life frequently dishes out.

For some, it’s being in the minority. It’s being hated, loathed, and feared. It’s being forced from your home, trampled on, and ridiculed. It’s being hated for your beliefs or for your religion. It’s being despised for any reason.

Hell is different for everyone, and everyone must walk through it from time to time. Thank God for that.

Hell for me was infertility. How many times did I stand outside of the bathroom while my wife locked herself in with a pregnancy test? Dozens, at least. How many times did I have to hold my sobbing wife against my chest and let her weep as long as she needed because there was only one damned line on the stick? How many days did I have to take off of work to be poked and prodded by doctors? How many embarrassing moments did I have, trying to do what they required of me, while a nurse waited outside the door? How many needles did I have to plunge into my wife’s derriere in hopes that it would result in two stripes on the next test? How many doctors did I want to drop kick in the face? How many times did our relationship have to survive through the anger, tears, frustration, miscarriages, or failed procedures? Hundreds.

And, how many times have I been overwhelmed with gratitude for the desperation that resulted from it all? Thousands. Maybe tens of thousands…