I used to be really irritated whenever someone mentioned God’s glory.
It took years of reflection, but thanks to God’s kind insight, I figured out why.
Part of the problem was that whenever I heard “glory of God”, I heard distance. Detachment. Dismissal. A far-off God who couldn’t care less about my heart or my issues, who basks in a shower of others’ praises while I toil down here, forgotten, or kinda tolerated. I feared getting lost in the shuffle.
I believe this is actually an enormous conundrum for my generation, one I’d like to talk about eventually – the collision of soli Deo gloria with the masses of millennials wounded by damaged families, abuse, neglect, self-hatred, addiction, and every other ill stemming from being grandchildren of the sixties, and then being told that a Christ-centered gospel means that their struggles are unworthy of attention. (Yes, we hear that. All the time.)
For now, the irony is, that definition of soli Deo gloria doesn’t glorify God. Scripture tells us instead of a gracious, compassionate, and involved God who goes to great lengths to come through, even arranging for trials so that we can learn of his power (2 Cor. 1:9). He is repeatedly described as a healer all through the holy book. It’s no wonder that many of my quiet times with God were unsatisfying and tense; I didn’t have the right image of him. Approaching God without accounting for every aspect of his character is a pointless exercise, and affords him no glory.
This has been a relief. God has reconciled vast territories of my heart to him through these Scriptural discoveries and opened new avenues of worship and intimacy.
But there was a deeper issue.
I was still irritated by God’s glory. Threatened, nervous.
Eventually, I realized the core problem: I still had attachments. Whenever I heard or read the phrase “glory of God” and remembered that it needed to be about him and his will, I was pricked by fear. Fear that I might not get what I wanted. Might not see the healing of my friend’s nephew. Might not see my beloved grandparents come to faith (please, no Calvinism debates just now). Might never get my book off the ground. Might not be able to write what I want even if I did. Might not be noticed for anything. Might not even be living in the same state or country at this time next year.
I tried to console myself with the idea that God’s glory means our good.
But that’s not quite true, either. Not for earthly good, anyway. The martyrs down through the ages, if you asked them whether God’s glory meant their good, would cock their heads and look at you weird. “It’s not about my good at all,” they’d say. “It’s about him.” And they put their money where their mouths were. They were so awed by the magnificence of God and his actions through the cross and resurrection that all else was overshadowed. And I’ve only just started to get there myself.
I realized that all my heel-digging and ideological wiggling was my flesh trying to preserve my agenda against the disruption, intrusion, invasion, of God’s glory. That’s what was mad inside.
And I realized it was a dead end.
Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
This was no longer a matter of me learning God or figuring things out. The practice unit was over and it was time for the exam.
I had to pray for God to glorify himself in my life – whatever that looked like. My input was filed, acknowledged, well and truly tucked away in his records, and now I could only await the test results, the phone calls, the letter from the publisher, the upcoming week. I could only seek God’s glory.
So I’m praying for it.
It feels like the breath-stealing, knee-wobbling, gut-dropping ascension up the final track before the roller coaster’s great plunge – constantly, on a daily basis. I have no way to guess how his glory will manifest in my life. Nothing is off the table (except the loss of my salvation, hallelujah). Frankly, it feels terrifying.
Embracing God’s glory is one big letting-go.
When all beseechings have been made, it’s one big letting go. No demands, no negotiation, no bindings. This really is just an issue of sin – my pride, my fear (which is pride), my agenda (more pride), and my willingness to let go.
I know there is nothing good outside from God. I wouldn’t want anything that isn’t from him.
I will pray for God to be glorified in my life. I’m pushing through the primal terror of that request. Whatever it means, I’m on board. He can be trusted. And he is worthy of my life.
It’s a heck of a way to end the overthinking.