If God is such a merciful and loving God, why would the afterlife include such a tragic place as hell where we are separated from Him for all eternity?
It can be hard to reconcile these two concepts, but the truth is that whether or not we go to hell is more our choice than it is God’s. As Sacred Scripture is clear to point out, God will not send us to heaven against our will because He respects our free will too much.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says of this in paragraph 1033: “We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love Him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against Him, against our neighbor, or against ourselves.
‘He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.’
“Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from Him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are His brethren. To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from Him forever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called, ‘hell.’”
The very existence of hell is the epitome of what it means for a soul to choose God.
Jesus Christ gave His life for the redemption of our souls. What is His sacrifice worth if we were to automatically go to heaven anyway?