You wrote about marriage and there was a place where you write of a woman describing 17 years of a bad marriage, his mistakes, her mistakes, his drinking, her impatience and now she wants out. How does she know that she’s not in for two more decades of tough times—she doesn’t. You said to her, essentially, “Stay.”

Sound harsh?

Yeah, it does.

All of this is built on the premise that we are here in some way to reflect the glory of God.

And it seems that if we’re here for my comfort or for our own piece of mind and if it’s all about me, then there’s no reason for me to stay in a difficult situation. But if there is a reason God has allowed me to be in a situation that’s very difficult, that could be used for his glory. I think I can accept that easier. That gives me strength to stay in difficult situations. To me the understanding of the glory of God is really the only explanation that makes sense to me of human suffering.

You wrote about your father getting ALS and how there had to be some way that that was used for God’s glory. And again I agree with you—there’s no easy way to explain human suffering. But it just seems like a hard way.

I think I tell a story in there about a good friend of mine in our church who had cancer—right now he’s in remission—but he was the one who had been told that if he prayed enough he would be healed and that message nearly killed him emotionally because he really had prayed a lot. And so when I urged him to see that maybe your cancer is given to you by God so that you could glorify God, that you could reflect God in the cancer ward.

That’s an easier way to look at it I guess.

At that point it sure made sense to him. Then he knew he hadn’t disappointed God and that God wasn’t disappointing him, but that there was some purpose to the suffering.

Who is your audience? Is it primarily Christians who are trying to figure their way through these difficult questions?

It’s primarily a Christian audience but I’ve found it to be well received among some non-believers. They say it stimulates their thought because it messes with their worldview just a bit.

When you say it “messes with their worldview,” what do you mean?

If we’re not told about God, the natural assumption is it’s all about me, so this comes along and directly rebuffs that. But if it’s true, it’s liberating and it helps life begin to make sense, the things we’ve already talked about like suffering or struggles. The big agenda item is God and His glory, not me and my comfort.

Is it a similar audience to the Rick Warren book, “A Purpose Driven Life”?

Rick’s a pastor as well, and I think the books are complementary. I actually presented this material out at Saddleback before Rick’s book came out—he was on a writing sabbatical, finishing “Purpose Driven Life.” And when we were out there, he commented to me, “You know, the first sentence of my new book is ”It’s not about you.”

Tell me why you think it’s complementary.

Rick’s book is a tremendous practical tool. It’s almost a primer on human life. Here’s the reasons we’re here, here’s what you’re here to do, and here’s how you can discover them. Mine is more, I think, a devotional book, more a theological book.

I try to just say, “Here’s glory.” Think about this concept. You know, like somebody might take the word “sovereignty” or an issue like grace. I just want to explore the issue of glory in a devotional context.

A couple things about your personal devotional life. What’s your favorite Bible verse?

It’s Hebrews 6:10, which is, “God is fair and He will not forget the work that you have done and the love that you have shown him by caring for His people.”

Why?

I came across that over a decade ago, and I thought, “What a great verse, because I forget the work that I’ve done.”But it says, “God will not forget the work that you’ve done.” That’s so affirming.

It’s also great for a pastor.

And it’s a great verse to encourage people. I was speaking at a church just last week that was honoring all their volunteers and I built the message around that verse.

How do you pray?

Irregularly. Inconsistently. I’ve got the hiccups in my prayers. My mind wanders.

That’s also a great confession. And it’s a relief to know that. So you don’t have the disciplined prayer time?