I have an uncle who, when he was 32 years old, was hit by a truck and (as he describes) died. And then later came back to life. Now my uncle was not my favorite person (he had sexually molested me as a child and he was also a complete alcoholic and I don’t recall him ever having a “real” job). If anyone had ever asked me, back then, who I thought God would send to hell, I would have said, “That’s easy, my uncle.”
Well, as my uncle describes his death (he taped his experience and I got a copy of the recording), it came as no shock to me that he actually did end up in hell. But not because God sent him there. In fact, as my uncle described his experience of this horrible place (and yes, it was a dark, barren pit of horror with fires scattered here and there) he described a God who loved him. A God who pulled him out of hell and told him he would be given another chance. He could choose death and go back to hell …or he could choose life and go back to earth. Well obviously, my uncle chose to go back to earth; but before he went, he asked if God could help him with his anger issues. And God was happy to oblige—He reached into my uncle’s soul and literally pulled out his anger. (My uncle never saw God, only heard a voice and felt a hand reach into him.) Then God told him there was “a plan” and that he would know the plan and follow the plan.
Long story made short, my uncle woke up in the hospital (yes, strapped to a gurney with a sheet pulled over his face) and he proceeded to go home…but he couldn’t remember if he actually knew “the plan.” Numerous years later I was asked to pray for this uncle. At the time, I had no idea that he had this “hell” experience. But I did end up praying for him to come to know Jesus (which is a miracle in itself…because I was still hurt from my experience with him.) Less than a month later, my uncle became a believer in Jesus. This happened after he heard a testimony of another man who had a near-death experience and also went to hell. This man told my uncle that the sure way out of hell was to accept life–Jesus. So that’s what my uncle did…and then a week (or maybe it was two weeks) later, my uncle died from a ruptured liver (from alcohol abuse).
Why am I telling you this crazy story? Well, Wm. Paul Young’s new book Cross Roads is about my uncle (metaphorically, I mean). Cross Roads asks that question: how much does God love us…even the worst of us? And is God willing– as we seem to be –to give up on someone and throw them into hell?
I’m ashamed of myself these days; after all, I was so willing to have my uncle go to hell. I wanted him there. I thought his going there would give me justice. But the justice God had planned was so much sweeter — forgiveness. It was my aunt who asked me to pray for my uncle, and at the time I didn’t think I could do it. I am now sure glad that she asked me to take that step of faith. I now understand that Jesus had already forgiven him, and watching my uncle accept that forgiveness … well, that was priceless.
My uncle was adamant that a real hell existed. But he was also full of joy because God wanted everyone to walk in life.
What is hell? It’s what we create by accepting death.
WM. PAUL YOUNG IS SPEAKING AT OUR MOTHERHEART CONFERENCE MAY 4TH … GET TICKETS HERE
Now here’s Wm. Paul Young with a wonderful Canadian lady named Lorna Dueck …
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