I have read a few books about heaven in the last couple of years. They have been good books. Heaven is for Real is a GREAT book. Simply written, easy to read, yet beautifully insightful, this is a book that I will continue to recommend to many people, from all walks of life and of all ages.
I had no idea that this book is about a pastor's family, but as I started to read the story, as a pastor's wife, I could identify with it right away. Todd Burpo talks about the struggles & sacrifices pastors & their families often make in the name of ministry. He talked about how he and the family went through some awful times leading up to Colton's sickness and near death, and how he was really angry with God about it all. At one point, Todd, in a room by himself while Colton is in surgery, rages at the Lord. "Where are you? Is this how you treat your pastors?! Is it even worth it to serve you?" Sharing this heart-wrenching detail, one that is very hard to admit, but something that many pastors have struggled with at one time or another, lent credibility to the whole story for me.
Another thing that stood out for me was the sweet innocence of Colton's story. As bits & pieces came out over time, he shared very naturally about his experience in Heaven, just as you'd expect any pre-schooler to share about a trip to Grandma's house for the weekend. Anyone with little people knows that details about their adventures can be shared at any time, out of the blue, sometimes seemingly completely out of place and prompted by who knows what.
Colton shared about what he saw in heaven in kid terms (markers, monsters, rainbows...), describing things as he saw them, rather than using adult words or Christian-ese. That made this glimpse into heaven very refreshing, as compared to some of the more theological / spiritual explanations I have heard adults use to describe things they have seen in heaven. Simple, straight-forward, just what he saw.
So many of the things that Colton shared match what I have understood about heaven: there's lots of work to do there, but it's good work that you love doing; there are many children there, children who never lived on earth but have been adopted by "Jesus' Dad", as Colton described it; you recognize people there and they recognize you; it's a beautiful perfect peaceful place lit not by a sun, but by light coming from the Lord; time in heaven must be different than time on the earth, because in his 3 minutes there Colton saw more than you could see in a year here; the first person you see when you get to heaven is Jesus, and He has beautiful eyes!
There are a few things in Colton's retelling of his visit to heaven that I want to research and read more about, things that I hadn't heard before or were contrary to what I learned about heaven. I had given up the idea that we have wings in heaven, but Colton clearly described something like wings on the people around him. I need to look into that more. His accuracy in describing other things has me at least thinking that I need to give this another look.
Colton's story of his heavenly visit has effected many people that way - encouraging them to take a 2nd look at things, to hope again where they had lost hope, to study God's word more closely, to draw closer to the Lord who somehow seems more tangible when a 4-yr-old describes His Heavenly Earth in greater detail than he can describe our fallen one... Some of the stories of the healing and hope people have received from hearing and reading Colton's story are more powerful than the original story, and that's saying something!
The Lord never wastes anything. The Burpo's willingness to share this story, the story of the visit to heaven that can't be disconnected from the harrowing experience of having very nearly lost their son and enduring the agony of his near-fatal sickness, shows that even our suffering can minister to others, perhaps better than our mountain-top (or out of this world!?) experiences.
To witness God's provision for another pastor's family (we really are just normal families in many ways with the same hurts and insecurities and hardships as any other family) is very encouraging. I'm still not sure that my unease about 'forever' is completely settled, but the detail and the many confirmations of scripture and real life details Colton could not have known about do provide something a little more solid for me to hold on to. There's too much in Colton's story to simply brush it off as childhood make-believe. His recounting of those 3 minutes in heaven is as close to first-hand experience as I have heard, and if it is to be believed, it's very encouraging evidence of something far more wonderful than my human head can possibly comprehend at this point.
For Colton, and for many who read his story and find hope and comfort in it, there is no doubt - Heaven is for Real!
Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson & Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.