Certain concepts are hard to grasp.
Take new languages for example. The vocabulary, grammar, and syntax seem strikingly odd at the outset. But, in time and with a little practice, you start to catch on.
Then there are other ideas or images that are impossible to grasp—the enormity of the Grand Canyon, the intricacies of the design of a newborn baby, or the love between a husband and wife on their wedding day. These realities are simply beyond the scope of the human mind.
So, too, is God’s glory. We often hear pastors, bloggers, and conference speakers talk about the glory of God. In fact, in certain segments of modern evangelicalism, this word is overwhelmingly prevalent. When we speak of God’s glory, at least in simplistic terms, we are referring to the sum total of all of the divine attributes of God. Imagine taking everything that makes God, God—his goodness, mercy, grace, love, wisdom—and rolling it into one package. This is the glory of God.
There is simply no way we can get our minds around that kind of greatness.
That’s why God’s glory is best understood in contrast. Here’s what I mean. God gives us good gifts—things like spouses, kids, jobs, and hobbies—which reflect some small aspect of His nature. We catch a glimpse of the love of God when we watch a groom crane his neck to see his bride walk down the wedding aisle. We sense the beauty of God when we watch the sun set over the horizon. We marvel at the creative handiwork of God when we see a world-class athlete do things that just don’t seem humanly possible.
Intuitively we know that these are mere reflections of God’s glory. God’s glory is like that—but so much more! Which is why, it seems, God allows us to see the frailty in the things we find glorious in this life. In contrast to these sources of lesser glory, we are able to see the glory of God a bit more clearly.
We celebrate marital love only to discover that loving another sinner is hard work and rife with disappointment. We treasure God’s design in our children only to see, all-too-clearly, that they are broken by sin. We find joy in using our gifts but know that our abilities have a built-in shelf-life.
Seeing the weakness of earthly gifts is not a curse—it is a blessing because we are, once again, reminded that God’s glory is like the best things these sources of joy have to offer—but so much more. Everything in this world pales when seen in contrast to the glory of God. This is why one of God’s greatest gifts to His children is allowing them to see the inadequacy of lesser things.
We want God to show us that all human relationships will let us down—even if that means the painful end of a dating relationship in college. This lesser love can allow us to grasp the far surpassing love of God. We want God to show us that sports are flimsy places to put our hope—even if that means a nagging injury that cuts our career short.
If not, we might be tempted to assume that these good gifts are the end in, and of, themselves. We’d worship them—subtly believing that they, and not God, were glorious. God, because of His great love for us, will reveal the I adequacy of all this world has to offer time and again. And at the end of the day, we want God to reveal the less-than-great things on earth so that the far surpassing greatness of God’s glory can more readily be seen.