Hell-bent. Are you? Am I?


I know. A heavy question, but since I used this phrase in my last post, I thought it deserved some further exploration. Merriam Webster defines hell-bent as “stubbornly and often recklessly determined.” The earliest mention of the phrase in our English vernacular dates back to a line in the poem The History of Colonel Nathaniel Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia by Benjamin Coleman (1673-1747):


“Ab-origines in Arms…did then resort,

In Haste to Susquehanna Fort,

Hell bent on Thoughts of Massacree.”


Apparently, there was a price on Colonel Bacon’s head, some “ab-origines” stubbornly determined in their pursuit of justice cloaked in massacre. I wonder if we’re prone to the same sort of behavior. A stubbornness, recklessness that resides within our hearts and that pushes us toward destruction—a massacre of the body, and ultimately the spirit, that lands us smack dab in the middle of hell.


Hell-bent. A phrase that, in my opinion, dates much further back than Coleman’s imagination. A truth that dates back to the beginning.


“Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden, and there he put the man he had formed. And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. … And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’… When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” –Genesis 2:8-9, 16-17, 3:6


Hell-bent. Determined sin, stubbornly and recklessly chosen from the very beginning. Adam and Eve, massacring their flesh, bending their will in the direction of hell.


We cannot escape our genetic and our spiritual DNA. Without the transformational, sacred work of the cross, we remain hell-bent. With the cross, we overcome our stooped stature to bend our knees in another direction. With Jesus, we bend toward heaven—heaven-bent. With Jesus, our knees fall to glory rather than destruction.


So what’s the gain of a life that is heaven-bent? Well, to understand this we must visit its contrast. It’s much easier to digest the wonder and witness of heaven, but to study the wilderness and witness of hell? Few will go there; it’s just too barren a place for those of us who are focused on the goodness of God. But that’s just it… therein lies the core definition of hell. To live in God’s goodness, is to live with the understanding of its contrast.


“He [God] will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power….” –2 Thessalonians 1:8-9


Hell is the absence of God and his goodness… completely. Yes, we talk about “hell on earth”—seasons of life seemingly void of God’s presence and his goodness, but truthfully, “hell on earth” is nothing compared to hell for all eternity. Whether you’re a Christian or not, if you’re upright and moving today, then you’re experiencing the goodness of God. Life belongs to the Creator. The fact that you’re actively participating in this privilege is a testimony to God’s love for you.


Have you enjoyed a cup of coffee today? A walk? Creation—flowers, scents, and sunshine? Have you been blessed by the love of a friend, spouse, child? Been hugged lately? Had a good conversation? A good nap? A good thought? Are you educated? Employed? Free to choose your habits, consumptions, neglects? Have you known the warmth of a blanket, a bath, an intimacy with your husband, your wife? A good book? A good movie? A favorite television show? How about a delicious plate of food… even a stick of gum? Music, money, and merriment of a wide variety?


Anything good in your life today? Then thank God. Whether or not you’re willing to recognize him as the source of all goodness doesn’t mean that all goodness doesn’t begin and end with him. All goodness begins and ends with God… every blessed thing that we experience in our lives.


“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” –James 1:17


To be hell-bent is to determine in our hearts that we are willing to live without it all in the end. Without God. Without goodness. Complete and utter emptiness except for the very deep realization of just how far that emptiness extends. A massacre of the soul that will not recover… ever.


I don’t tell you this to shame you; heaven knows there was a time in my life when I was hell-bent, bowing low and bowing often in the direction of sin and eternal destruction. I don’t tell you this to judge you; judgment belongs to the Father. No, I write you these words to warn you, just in case there are some of you who’ve never accepted the fact that there is a life beyond this one. Heaven is for real, but so is hell. There isn’t anything you’ve experienced on earth that comes close to matching the actuality of what awaits you if you continue to bend your heart in opposition to God’s truth.


I cannot imagine a life apart from God. I’m glad I don’t have to, but there are those who claim not to see him; not to feel him; not to know him. I would tell those people (maybe even you) to look at the multiple goodnesses in your life. In them, you will find God… a fleeting glance of what you risk losing should you continue in your hell-bent determination to do life your own way. You may think that you’re living apart from God, that there is no God, and that you are free to live without consequence. But you would be wrong.


No one lives apart from God; no one lives without consequence. This is our Father’s world, and God will have the final word on our eternal residency. He, alone, holds the key to forever.


Hell-bent; heaven-bent. In which direction are your knees bending this day? Choose wisely. Choose soberly. Choose today. An earthly tomorrow is not promised to us, but an eternal one is. As for me and my heart, I choose a forever with God and all of his goodness. I pray you choose the same. As always…


Peace for the journey,
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PS: For any of you who are struggling with your hell-bent tendencies and would like prayer or to discuss things further, please feel free to contact me by clicking on this link. Shalom.






16 Responses to hell-bent…

  1. Hi Elaine,
    Thank you so much for this beautifully written and heartfelt post. I have a loved one who desperately needs to hear this and I will be sharing it with her.
    Blessings to you,

    • Oh that someone, just one might think twice about eternity today! That is my goal with everything I write, Susan. Praying for your loved one this noon hour.

  2. Oh, my have I ever been hell-bent before….those years I played the prodigal in my 20s….I was certainly hell-bent despite the fact that I was saved. That makes it that much worse. I slapped my Jesus in the face with my actions.

    I do not ever want to go back to that again. Wonderful piece Elaine. It truly describes the condition of so many.

    • Come to Jesus….and live! May SOMEone read this and “COME” as surely as I read this and determine to “LIVE” by His grace and for His glory.
      This morning, Mark Dever tweeted: “We have acted as if casualness were the height of intimacy with God.” I can’t get it out of my head. I receive your word soberly this morning…

      • Casual has no place in our faith walks. Intentional faith-walking… it’s how we must live, Rebecca. Prayers for sweet Silas this noon hour.

    • “Slapping Jesus with my actions”… Wow, Leah, that really is a visual picture of sin. Painful, yet needful. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Been there-done that and now I await in prayer for my my daughters own brokenness as she is hell-bent…keep praying for her please.

    I have been reflecting a lot on my life lately. I had some pretty selfish hell-bent days and I think of how much wasted time there has been from the joy of God’s freedom through Christ. It compels me forward, makes me even more determined to share God’s grace.

    If only Emma would listen…

    Love you Elaine.

    Striving to live Out Loud~Pamela

  4. Elaine, Excellent. My Mother growing up use to say “looks like your Hell Bent on this or that”. We knew when she said that, it was time to really think if we want to continue in that direction and pay the cost of being “Hell Bent”. Thanks for the teaching and the touch of my memory bank.

    • Touching the memory bank… love that, Jane! I don’t typically use the phrase, “hell-bent”, but should I do so in the future, I will soberly pull out this remembrance from my memory bank! Blessings and peace to you this day.

  5. What a powerful message you’ve shared. Just moments before opening your blog, I found myself in prayer and in tears, overwhelmed by the desire to honor Him and His Son. You always lift me up, sweet friend, and give me things to think about.

    While there are those who are Heaven bent and Hell bent, I think I’m more worried about those who think they know God and will go to Heaven simply because they’re spiritual. One of my dear high school friends believes all Gods are the same God and that Jesus was simply a good man, not the Son of God. She’s a good woman with good intent, but doesn’t “get it.” I think I pray harder for her than most anyone I know because I love her and want her to truly be Heaven bent.


    • Yes, you were in my spam folder! I hope I’ve fixed this permanently. You’re so much better than spam, friend!!!!!!!

  6. Loving this post! It reminds me of deut 30: ” This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live (Deuteronomy 30:19 NIV)”. Too often I’m following emotions or worldly goods and go after death thinking its offering life. But the lord is kindly and gently stripping me of those thoughts. And with his pruning comes new life.

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