Life dealt me a pretty hard blow a few weeks ago, and the truth that led to a door shut in my face, leaving me outside and exiled, that truth continues to hurt like a knotted bruise. There are certain people I love, family or seeming friends, with whom I have tried for so long to find favor, but I can never obtain it. When, on occasion, I do get a commendation, it fades quickly, and I am left feeling despised again.
I do believe that it’s a natural tendency of ours to want to please others, most often seeking the approval of those whom we love and those who have been given authority over us. If they fall in both categories, those of loved ones and authority figures, we’re especially eager to please them. We want them to commend us. We want to be praised by them. If you have children, are around them, or remember being one, you’re familiar with the kid who tries so very hard for his parents’ attention when they’re busy, and fails to receive it. You’ve seen his original excitedness to show off and impress, the way it becomes more intense when praise is not immediately given, the desperation when he realizes he’s being ignored. It hurts so much not to receive it from the people we want to impress the most. C S Lewis calls it “the specific pleasure of the inferior: the pleasure of a beast before men, a child before its father, a pupil before his teacher, a creature before its Creator”. His essay “The Weight of Glory” discusses the idea that the glory we are told we will receive is glory in the sense of finding favor with God. We see a small picture of this, one which Lewis cites, in Jesus’ parable of the talents: “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant… Enter into the joy of your master'” (Mt. 25:21). And in the Gospel of John, Jesus taught his disciples, calling them to keep his commandments, “that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full”. A couple of chapters later, in his prayer to his Father before he was arrested, he said “The glory that you have given me I have given to them” (17:22); that is, “glory that you have given me because you loved me” (24). The glory we are promised we will receive is associated with God’s rejoicing in us, delighting in us; we will be glorified by being loved by God.
Lewis spells it out for us: “The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us… shall find approval, shall please God”. Paul writes in 2nd Timothy “God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are his'” (2:19). This idea of someday being known by God or not known, approved or ignored, accepted or estranged, the idea is given weight in our deep-felt longing for praise from our fellow men. I have known so little of it from those I loved most, those I most wanted to please. It is so very painful to feel unwanted by those who ought to love and support, those who should be proud of us. If I may be so honest, I am sometimes brought near to the point where I wonder if I could ever please anyone, delight anyone, find favor with anyone anymore… perhaps not even with God. Even David cried out in Psalm 13 “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” But He does not keep his face hidden. Mr. Lewis wrote in his essay, “To please God… to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness… to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son–it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is”. It’s a fantastic thought, so much so that I find trouble believing it’s not a fairy tale ending. And though the praise of men is not promised to us, if we know the Son, we shall find favor with the Father. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians, “we make it our aim to please him”.
This is a promise which, if you can believe it, will make your heart swell.