What goals will make the biggest difference in your life this year? Losing weight, spending less, and saving more are worthy goals. But what happens if your paycheck shrinks like a cheap cotton T-shirt and you can no longer afford the organic Kohlrabi you love so much? You might even be reduced to buying groceries…at Dollar Tree. Let’s consider a different goal. How about the goal of improving our relationships?
Years come and go and it’s hard not to wax a bit disappointed or even jaded about relationships. In particular, I am thinking about those relationships that suck the life out of us, send us through the seventh circle of frustration, or compare well to regular root canals. Usually, these relationships are in our own home or church.
Will This be a Good Year for Your Relationships?
What are you going to do differently this year? What will help you to be a more effective spouse or parent? I’d like to suggest a goal that I am certain will help. How about the goal of digging deep into the glory of Christ? Does that sound too heavenly minded to be any earthly good?
If you think I’m wackamo, then I appeal to the highly respected Puritan, John Owen. Owen writes prolifically about the glory of God in his work, The Glory of Christ:
A constant view of the glory of Christ will revive our souls and cause our spiritual lives to flourish and thrive. Our souls will be revived by the transforming power with which beholding Christ is always accompanied. This is what transforms us daily into the likeness of Christ. So let us live in constant contemplation of the glory of Christ, and power will then flow from him to us, healing all our declensions, renewing a right spirit in us and enabling us to abound in all the duties that God requires of us…such as building relationships! (Author’s addition in bold)
Only one thing will eclipse the challenges we face in our relationships: our joy in Christ. Owen describes the glory of Christ as “an anchor they may cast within the veil, to hold them firm and steadfast in all their trials.”
The dissonance in our relationships often reveals that we are anchoring ourselves onto something –or someone—other than God. No one can be the source of supply for someone else. We must first find our supply in God alone so that we can be free to be God’s instrument in their lives. Otherwise, idolatry will get in the way and we will have to endure another year of relational discontent.
Show Me Your Glory!
The struggles we face are elements in a sovereign plan for our growth in the image of Christ. Indeed we were created for glory. And in heaven we will all be about one thing: God’s glory. Our preparation for heaven boils down to growing in a passionate pursuit of God’s glory. Our souls need to be lifted up out of our individual cesspools and the only thing capable of doing that is the transcendent reality that is the glory of God as seen in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Seeing Jesus is satisfying, most especially in those moments of trouble or seasons of disquiet.
Moses asked to see God’s glory in the midst of his trial leading Israel (Exodus 33:22). But all Moses was shown was a glimpse of God’s glory as it quickly passed by. Since then, Scripture tells us that man has actually seen Jesus; the very Son of God. He has listened to him, eaten with him, touched him, and been touched by him. We today continue to see him in the scriptures. One day we will see him perfectly, in all of his glory.
Our relational struggles are teachers that help us to see how we are deficient in desiring God’s glory.
How do we see God’s Glory?
Seeing God’s glory is different from what we typically do in devotions. Devotions can often be dry and, well, “informational”. We might think to ourselves, “Wow. I’ve never seen before that the first four commandments deal with our relationship with God and the last six deal with our relationship with our fellow man.” Or, “Finally! I now know where Paul went on each of his missionary journeys.” For sure, these are good things to know. But by themselves they are mere information that we normally file away in our brains. Algebraic Theorems could be just as exciting. We can miss the bigger picture.
Jesus says in John 5:39, “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” Scripture is the Fort Knox of God’s Glory in this life. From Creation and on through the Old Testament we see Christ exemplified in key people we read about (typology). We see Christ in the ceremonial laws; the priesthood, the sacrifices, and the sanctuary. We see Christ in the redemption of his people out of Egypt, and later out of the hands of various enemy nations. And then, in the New Testament, Christ comes and we actually see how Christ fully, perfectly fulfills the law for us.
Seeing God’s Glory Helps us Build Better Relationships
Information does not save us! A person—Jesus Christ—does. He saves us for a relationship that is so close that its archetype is the Trinity itself (John 17:24). We are vicariously united with Christ in his death and his resurrection (Rom. 6:1-2). We are, now “Hidden in Christ” (Col. 3:3). This is a glorious reality that should fill us with impenetrable delight as we dwell upon it. As we dwell on it, intentionally, each day, it lifts our souls, filling them with satisfaction so that we can build even our most difficult relationships.