“I deserve to go to hell.”
“Why do you say that, Scott?” I asked.
“Because it’s what I deserve. I’m going to hell, no matter what,” he said.
“I know hell’s a real place, and I know what goes on there… I’ve done too many bad things… I deserve to go to hell.”
That was the end of my conversation with a student the other week. A group of students, myself, and another leader from YFC, were talking about life, regrets, and moving forward. When it was Scott’s turn to answer, he shared some stuff from his past and then uttered the above words. He refused to look at me or the other leader. He just stared at the floor.
Maybe it was the way he said everything, but for some reason I sat there speechless. I didn’t know how to answer him. I mean, sure I know the answers to say, but in that moment, they all escaped me. I left the group that night thinking, “How do you share hope with someone who seems to not want it, much less doesn’t think they deserve it?” As I’ve been processing this conversation, here are three things I’m feeling led to do.
Listen to his story.
I don’t know enough of Scott’s backstory to draw any conclusions. I need to hear more. And I know he needs to share more. You can tell by looking at him that he secretly longs to be understood, to be listened to, to be wanted. In another conversation, Scott shared that a game-changer for him was when he began bullying other people. “When I bully others, people notice me. I get attention.” Scott needs to be heard, and I need to take time to listen.
Discuss God’s hope.
It’s obvious that Scott doesn’t fully understand the nature of God. From what I gather by what he says, God is an old-angry-guy who sits “up there,” and who is bent on sending everyone He doesn’t like to hell. I wonder if anyone has ever told Scott about God’s real character, about His perfect love? I wonder if he’s ever heard that God’s love for him drove Jesus to the cross? I wonder if anyone has ever shared with him that in Christ there is hope and reason to live? Has anyone told Scott that there is no sin big enough or bad enough beyond God’s forgiveness and grace? Has anyone shared with him the truth that God isn’t “up there” but in fact “right here?”
Or have people been too quick to give up on Scott, and others like him.
Meet with him and pray regularly.
Hearing his story and talking about God’s true nature is going to take more than meeting one time, or even three times. As youth workers, we can’t personally mentor every kid we come across. However, some kids we have to make time for, especially if there is no one else. Scott doesn’t need me, per se, but he needs someone, and right now, that someone is me. Even more, Scott needs Jesus. Therefore, I need to be praying on Scott’s behalf, I need to be interceding for him daily. Before we meet and after, I need to pray. While he’s speaking to me, I need to pray. And as I’m speaking to him, I need to be listening to the Spirit’s words. I’m not Scott’s Savior, Jesus is; I simply need to be a willing vessel for Jesus to use in reaching Scott.
I’m not sure how Scott will respond to me, or where these conversations will lead us. But I’m willing to try… I need to try. I welcome any suggestions and insights. I also covet your prayers for “Scott,” and others like him.
Thought I would give an update on “Scott” – yes, this is not his real name. So many people have reached out and said they were praying for him, which was awesome – thank you!! I have had a few opportunities to meet with Scott and to hear his story. I’ve had the opportunity to share the gospel with him, and he has decided to be “on Jesus’ team” – his words! Together we’re learning what this means, as we continue meeting. Thanks again for the prayers and feedback.