Review & Devotional | Heaven Changes Everything
A devotional book from the author of Heaven Is For Real.
Heaven Changes Everything | Living Every Day with Eternity in Mind by Todd and Sonja Burpo
2012 - Thomas Nelson
Todd Burpo wrote the bestselling book Heaven Is For Real after his four year old son, Colton, went through life-saving surgery and encountered heaven in a very real way. Now, Todd and his wife Sonja have released Heaven Changes Everything | Living Every Day with Eternity in Mind. The book is a series of over 40 devotionals based around Colton's heavenly experience, and what they learned in the stress and difficulty of their young son being diagnosed with a life threatening illness.
Todd and Sonja share their questions, doubts, hopes and all that they have learned along the way. After publishing Heaven Is For Real, the Todd and Sonja have met many people with questions and their own experiences, which come into play in their writing. Issues such as abortion, forgiveness and the miraculous subjects are addressed graciously throughout the book. This devotional book truly inspires, with scripture at the end of every chapter and ideas for how the reading can apply to daily life. Heaven really does change everything!
In this excerpt from chapter 12, just one of the many devotionals from Heaven Changes Everything, Sonja Burpo discusses the importance of friendship:
The Blessing of Friends
I thought of the times where the Scripture says that God answered the prayers, not of the sick or dying, but of the friends of the sick or dying—the paralytic, for example. It was when Jesus saw the faith of the man’s friends that he told the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”
When I’m speaking to women’s groups, I talk to them about surviving the hurts that come our way. I tell them about my own crushing emotional pain when I miscarried our second child. And I describe the complete physical and emotional exhaustion I felt when Colton seemed to be dying and the doctor in North Platte told us he’d done everything he knew to do and we needed to transfer him to Omaha or Denver—just as a snowstorm rolled in, closing all the roads.
"We need friends every step of the way"
I got through those experiences only because God granted me the strength to survive them⎯and because he put strong friends in my life to lift me up when I couldn’t stand on my own.
I tell audiences that when something terrible happens to us, like a miscarriage or the death of an older child, we can’t just curl up and die. Most of us have jobs and families. Others are depending on us, so we’ve got to keep going. I tell women, “We’ve got to get up, get through it, and get on with our lives.” And we need friends every step of the way.
You can’t stay in your house, closed off from everyone, after hard times hit. We weren’t created to go through life alone.
Has your toddler ever told you, “I can do it myself,” even when you know he or she needs help? You offer to carry that too-heavy thing the toddler wants to carry or pour that drink of juice or milk, but the toddler insists. Sometimes you give in, even though you know what’s going to happen. There’s gonna be a mess.
I know adults who use that same line: “I can do it myself.” Sometimes it’s tempting for us to believe that way. But think about this: when God created the world, he established that it is not good for man (or woman, for that matter) to be alone or to do things alone (Genesis 2:18). We need each other. Toddlers don’t get it; they loudly insist, “I can do it myself!” If you’re an adult and you’re still living by that attitude, consider a more grown-up attitude. You can’t do it yourself. If Jesus needed the support of his friends and disciples (and throughout the Gospels you can read where he did), then you need friends too.
I’ve never doubted that lesson because I lived it out as I grew up. I’m not only a pastor’s wife; I’m also a pastor’s kid. My family moved every few years as Dad changed churches. So I had to learn to make friends quickly. I also learned to cherish close friends when I could find them because true, close friends don’t just happen everywhere you live. You have to work at developing close friendships.
When Todd and I lived in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, I had two heart-close friends. I called Sarah my prayer partner, and I jokingly referred to Martha as my “partner in crime.” We talked every day and supported each other as young wives and mothers.
Then Todd became the pastor of the church in Imperial, and we had to move. I cried all the way from Oklahoma to Nebraska, missing Martha and Sarah already and knowing I would never, ever have friends as close as they were to me.
"I didn't feel very connected with our new hometown."
For a while in Imperial, I struggled. As a pastor’s wife, I’ve learned to be a little guarded about who I bring into that circle, knowing there’s always the possibility that someone might want to be my friend just to have an “inside track” into the business of the church. In every town there are people who love gossip. A pastor’s wife absolutely has to stay out of that kind of childish behavior, and a pastor’s wife’s friend has to stay out of it too.
A year went by after our move to Imperial, and although I had many acquaintances in the church and at the school where I worked, I had no close friends. I didn’t feel very connected with our new hometown. In fact, at one point I went to a women’s Bible study at another church, just looking for a connection. They said, “Wait, aren’t you the pastor’s wife at that other church across town?”
I said, “Yes, but we don’t have a women’s Bible study, and I need it.”
I don’t think they ever really accepted me as just another Christian woman wanting to soak up the Word of God. They couldn’t get past my role as “the pastor’s wife at that other church.”
There was one woman though who, whenever I encountered her, consistently warmed my heart and made me smile. Her name was Terri, and she worked at the local bank. Like me, she had played volleyball in college, and somehow, whenever I went into the bank to cash a check or make a deposit, that connection helped us strike up conversations about all sorts of other things.
I wasn’t really looking for a close friend as I chatted with Terri each week. But here’s something interesting: even though I didn’t feel I was actively seeking a new best friend, Todd was praying that I would find one. I didn’t know that at the time. I just knew that I looked forward to going into the bank and chatting with Terri. I enjoyed talking with her about our families, about our college volleyball experiences, and gradually, about other things as well.
Terri got pregnant, and when her baby was born, I baked a loaf of banana bread and delivered it to her in the hospital. Now, for a lot of women this wouldn’t be a big deal, but I am not one who does a lot of cooking and baking, and my oven was acting up at the time, so it was really a gift of love for me to do that. Somehow Terri understood. From that point on, our friendship grew stronger, and today, more than ten years later, she and I share a very small circle of heart-to-heart friends.
"Cherish your friends."
She is the perfect friend to a pastor’s wife. She doesn’t expect me (or my kids) to be perfect. We keep each other’s kids, sometimes on a moment’s notice. Colby has spent so much time at her house while Todd and I have been traveling lately that he has his own toothbrush at her house.
Terri is trustworthy. She doesn’t ask questions about sensitive issues going on in the church, and she has a discerning heart. She probably knows far more about me, my family, and our work with the church than she would ever mention to anyone, even to me.
Oh, and best of all, she’s fun! Believe me, if there’s one thing a pastor’s wife needs, it’s occasional episodes of comic relief.
In a speaking engagement recently, I was talking about the unique and priceless gift a pastor’s wife has when she has a friend she can trust, share, and laugh with. Afterward, a woman came up to me and said, “I know how hard it is to be a pastor’s wife because I’ve been best friend to a pastor’s wife for more than twenty years.”
All I could do was hug her and say thank you.
Cherish your friends. You’re going to need them when you’re climbing out of the pit. And if you don’t have a close friend right now, I encourage you to work on finding one.
If you need a friend, start praying, and watch for God to bring someone into your life who can be that friend you need. Then you be the friend she needs as well. Don’t have a toddler’s I-can-do-it-myself mind-set. Remember that even Jesus needed the help and support of others.
"[Jesus] took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with him, and he began to be very sad and troubled. He said to them, 'My heart is full of sorrow, to the point of death. Stay here and watch with me.'"— Matthew 26:37–38 NCV
Used with permission. Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Thomas Nelson.