to eye problems. I’m glad we don’t know what his thorn was. It’s like men’s socks: One size fits all. Whatever his thorn was, the principle applies to whatever point of pain we face. Three times Paul begged God in prayer to take it away. But God allowed Him to suffer this thorn for a reason. It made Paul depend on God instead of himself. And Paul just learned to live with the thorn.

Christians sometimes go through tough times. Robert Schuller once wrote a book entitled Tough Times Never Last But Tough People Do. I never really liked that title because it suggests if you’re just tough enough, you can endure through temporary tough times. But for some people tough times do last. What about the inmate serving a life sentence? Try telling him tough times don’t last. What about those parents who have a severely mentally or physically handicapped child? Try telling them tough times don’t last.

The truth is sometimes tough times go on and on and none of us are tough enough on our own to handle it. So I’m thinking about writing a book entitled “Tough Times Seem to Go on Forever But Weak People Cry Out to God for Help.”


For the first twenty years of my Christian life I thought since I was a Spirit-filled Christian I should never display any kind of weakness or need in my life. When I was 29, I was under a lot of stress and didn’t even know it. We recently built our first home and had done a lot of the work ourselves. In addition, I was finishing my doctoral work at Southern Seminary. To top it off, my mother was living with us and was dying from breast cancer. All the time I was also pastoring a growing, active church.

Looking back, I thought I had it all together, but I wasn’t willing to admit the amount of stress in my life. The way I dealt with it was to just work harder. After all, if I “broke down” and shared my pain with someone else, it would prove either I wasn’t strong enough or that God wasn’t doing his job. I started losing weight, without trying to. I went to a doctor and he ran tests including a Colonoscopy, but they couldn’t find anything physically wrong with me.

I was leading a MasterLife group with five couples, and during one session toward the end of the cycle we were sharing prayer requests and I was mentioning my mother, and my doctoral work when suddenly out of the blue, I started weeping. I had never been much of a crier because my dad subtly taught me that real men don’t cry. As I wept, these precious friends (they’re still my friends) gathered around me and hugged me and prayed for me.

It was my first of several “break downs” I’ve had since. In fact, Cindy can tell you now I cry at anything. We were watching the movie “Seabiscuit” the other night and during the big race as Seabiscuit pulls ahead she was clapping and I was sitting there crying like a baby.

As I look back, I think God did a powerful work in my life when I was 28. He introduced me to the experience of brokenness. To us, a