Recently I was reading a post from someone who had a child with a disability, and he mentioned that God did everything, including this, for His own glory.
While I agree with that statement, I think non-Christians and skeptics, and even some Christians, have trouble with the idea of God allowing what we would think of as bad to happen for His own glory. What kind of person does everything for his own glory, anyway?
Well, when humans seek their own glory, it’s usually self-motivating and undeserved. Sure, we’re to give honor to whom honor is due, and there may be times an authority has to demand the respect due their position. The latter is usually not for selfish motives, but to be able to enforce the authority they’ve been given to keep whatever order they’re in charge of. But if we say someone is seeking glory, we think of them as prideful and maybe even a bit immature and would probably be quick to think of their faults which would undermine any glory they think they deserve. Everyone wants significance, everyone wants to matter, but that’s different from seeking glory.
God, on the other hand, is perfect. He’s also the sovereign, almighty ruler of the universe. He’s the only One who deserves glory in that sense. But He’s not an egomaniac striving for attention. He is also good and kind and wise and loving.
He doesn’t seek glory because He “needs” it. He seeks it because we need it.
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18
It’s only when we see His glory that we see our own need and His sufficiency, that we get to know Him better and love Him more. It’s only by beholding His glory that we’re changed to be like Him.
What about those hard things that God allows for His glory, like a man who had been blind all his life, or a man who had been lame for 38 years, or the death of a beloved friend? I remember one time being especially troubled about the man lame for 38 years: maybe I was around 38 at the time and could not wrap my head around being lame for a lifetime. Why had God let him languish for so long before healing him? In each of these cases, the healing or resurrection magnified the Lord even more: their long duration (of the blindness or lameness) or difficulty proved that this wasn’t a trick, a set-up. If Jesus could heal such hard cases, that was a further evidence that He was God. But what about the poor people in such a state? 2 Corinthians 4:18:18 says:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
I had a friend one time get offended that God called the trial she was going through a light affliction when it was anything but light to her. It was heavy, weighty, burdensome. But He wasn’t “making light” of it: He was saying that our affliction would seem light compared to the “eternal weight of glory” being prepared for us. We can’t even imagine what that will be like!
What I think most people mean when they say God did or allowed something hard for His own glory is that somehow through those circumstances, people were drawn to Him or learned something of Him that they would not have any other way. Somehow in the least likely situations, suddenly they see Him clearly. Sometimes through someone else’s ministering to them, sometimes through unusual provision, sometimes in peace or a reminder of God’s love from His Word. But all of a sudden, a ray of light pierces the darkness. We see a glimpse of His glory, and then we’re assured of His love and power and ability to take care of anything we’re dealing with. More than that, we see His majesty and greatness, and we’re lifted out of our own fog and doldrums into pure worship.
And [Moses] said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.
And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.
And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.
And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock:
And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.
And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.
And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth…
Exodus 33:18-23; 34: 5-6
God’s desire for us to see His glory isn’t for egotistical reasons: it’s to show us His goodness.
May this be our prayer:
One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. Psalm 27:4.