God’s glory provides an indestructible purpose. It is a powerful resource to help us move forward under the burden of sorrow. Yet even in writing these words, I feel like I’m doing an injustice to how it feels in practice. It can sound like some hagiographic account of a martyrdom, too romantic and unwavering for the hardscrabble realities of my heart.
In practice, living in this season is not some grandiose sweep of glory and more a series of small, hard choices. I must choose to do the next thing, to go to work and invest in the people God has called me to care for, to be present with my children, and to not withdraw from my marriage into myself. I must choose whether to lay on the couch in the evening or to get up and serve my family. I must persevere in making these choices, and there are plenty of times when I fail. Having a vision for God’s glory does not mean there is some ball of energy in my chest that makes those choices easy. Many days feel like moving through a vat of molasses. What his glory provides, though, is a different perspective on what I am choosing in each of those moments.
One of the dangers of despair is that it can keep us from seeing the truth of our lives. It is like a shadowed lens between us and the world, making the good things invisible and casting the shadows in stark relief. The deeper we slip into this distorted vision, the less we are able to rouse ourselves. Faithfulness seems like a monumental effort for a result that doesn’t seem worth the pain.
God’s glory functions like a lighthouse to sailors lost at sea, a shining beacon by which we can navigate. It recasts our decisions: I am not taking care of myself because I am worthwhile (I don’t feel worth much some mornings) but because God created me with significance and purpose. I engage with my wife not because it is worth the pain I know it will eventually bring but because God made me to serve her and, in doing so, to serve him. The glory of God changes the stakes. I might still choose the path of least resistance, but when I do, I am forced to recognize that there is a profound cost.
To put it another way, God’s glory offers me a story I can inhabit even when the other stories in my life turn tragic. I love the story of how Elizabeth and I met and got married. I’ve shared it hundreds of times, and each repetition makes me look across at Elizabeth and smile, relishing the shared memories and the shape of her face. It is a wonderful story, but if it is the story of my life, then my life will be over when hers ends. What God offers is a larger narrative. Our life together is a major plot thread, a glorious act 2, but it is not the whole play. The reason the curtain rises comes from the Lord, and the play will continue even when my favorite companion disappears stage left and I am left alone.