Glory hunger can strike without warning, causing us to hide and stuff our faces with glory junk food. Feeling empty we check FaceBook. An hour later we don’t know where the time went, we just know we still feel empty. What were we looking for? Some kind of affirmation of…what? We’re not sure. But now that you’ve posed the question, we think, probably, we want affirmation of our very existence. That’s all.
Glory hunger? Me Too.
Welcome to the club, not just you but the kids, too. Do you know how to recognize your glory hunger and where to go to fill it? Author JR Vassar offers help.
When I was in third grade, the teacher asked us to write 5 sentences about the main character of a story. I had liked the story. I knew which one was the main character. And I could think of a few things to say about him.
But I sat there, stuck. I started to write a sentence, then scribbled it through. The second time I crossed it out. Before long, I balled up the paper and started over on a clean sheet. But the words sounded stupid. After a few more tries, I put my head on my desk, tears spattering my paper and broken pencil.
What was going on? I was known as a smart kid, but every day I had to prove it all over again. This time I had failed to measure up and it gave me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Why? Because my hoarded store of self-produced glory had drained away, leaving me famished.
It was a new type of eating disorder, Glory Hunger.
Fame, the Inner Ring, and God’s Plan
Glory hunger is real for third graders as well as for the rest of us. We can learn to recognize it in ourselves, but where do we go to feed it? Moments of public recognition satisfy us briefly. We frame the certificate, put the trophy on a shelf. Applause can fill us briefly too, but it doesn’t last.
Being included by people we’ve admired—the inner ring as CS Lewis calls it— can send our blood sugar soaring. For a while we’re on top of the world, feeling mighty good about ourselves. But then comes the inevitable crash, when we realize there’s another in crowd, further in.
Our strategies are flawed, not because seeking glory is wrong, but because we’re looking for glory in all the wrong places. In fact, as Jesus said in John 5:44, we were meant to seek glory straight from the source. God himself takes our glory hunger seriously. We were built for glory, but we fell.
God himself takes our glory hunger seriously. We were built for glory, but we fell.
That’s the thesis behind the book Glory Hunger. Author JR Vassar is transparent with his own struggle. He identifies the emptiness we often feel and offers hope to his reader in the first few pages. He writes, “Though our glory hunger has made us slaves to the applause of people, God has built us for glory and intends to satiate our hunger for it “(p. 15).
You see, glory hunger isn’t simply a pride problem. It’s not just ego gone wrong. We were made for glory, to be filled with the pleasure and blessing of God. But “in Adam’s fall, we sinned all.” Ever since then there’s been a hole in our soul, a void where there used to be something solid and true.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
That’s the glory Christ came to reclaim and restore to us.
Glory Hunger and the Finished Work of Christ
When does glory hunger hit you? If you’re like me, it could be times like these:
- When someone is even credit for something I did.
- Every time someone praises my rival.
- When someone habitually interrupts me.
Why talk about it? Because it’s a legitimate problem with many illegitimate—or at least ineffective—solutions. Legitimate, because it’s not a product of our imagination, but a true assault on our God-given dignity. Problem, because it hurts. And when something hurts, we will do anything to make it feel better. Our glory hunger can produce all kinds of ineffective, even self-destructive, behaviors.
What do you do when glory hunger strikes? Do you fish for compliments? Snack on past success? Toot your own horn on social media?
Author JR Vassar illustrates a few of the endless ways we try to fill the emptiness. We live in the past, our “glory days,” or plunge desperately into new ventures. Those ventures themselves are not the problem. But the burden of our own glory–the burden we place on our efforts to be wonderful–is more than they can bear.
Our Efforts and Christ’s
Our effort is endless because it’s futile, Vassar tells us, quoting the Greek myth of Sisyphus. You may remember he’s the one who was condemned to roll a stone to the top of the hill only to have it roll back down again. That’s us. We strive and sweat to boost our reputation up the hill, but it doesn’t stay there.
Our effort is also endless because we’re seeking approval in the wrong places. A big part of our glory hunger is that we’ve left the courtroom of God’s opinion and run off to find favor with everyone else, including ourselves. The Audience of One doesn’t interest us.
Only in the work of Christ is our approval problem solved. He lived to please his Father alone, setting aside the approval of his friends, enemies, and even his own family in the process. His perfect life was pronounced, “very good,” as ours should have been.
In this way Christ himself brings our Sisyphean cycle to an end. The author pulls back the curtain on the Savior in every chapter, but this was one of my favorites:
“We will find our glory hunger satisfied and the Sisyphus cycle broken by another, who heroically climbed the ultimate hill for us.”
Justifying Our Very Existence
It is only in Christ that we are justified in the only court that matters. All our efforts at justifying ourselves before others or ourselves can finally come to an end. But does that settle our glory hunger?
“Until the opinion of the one who matters most actually matters most to you, you will never be free from your unrelenting glory hunger.”p. 43-44
That’s why the gospel of Christ is such good news for our this struggle. Changing our appetite for glory is part of Jesus’ ongoing work in our lives by the indwelling Spirit. Because Jesus has won the war for us, we can learn to fight –and win–our daily battles with him. Glory hunger continues to attack us as Christians. Without warning we crave the applause of those around us. It can feel like nothing has changed. That’s because Vassar reminds us, “Life is a war for glory.”
“Life is a war for glory.”
The work of Christ has decisively won the war, but there are still battles to be fought. Vassar goes on to spend the last five chapters equipping us to fight.
Glory Hunger and the Work of the Holy Spirit
Our first battleground is the question of who we are going to love most. Narcissism turns us inward and the world applauds because they are fellow narcissists. We form a club with our likes and follows and retweets, using each other.
We even use the gospel to accomplish our personal glory project. Like the disciples, we use Jesus as a stepping stone to our success. Vassar does some helpful diagnosis here, calling attention to “our vertical self” and “our horizontal self.”
But most helpful is the way he blows away the enchantment of worldliness with the fresh air of Reality. We are not the center of the world and that’s should be a relief! “A world with everything orbiting around us will crumble, because it is not real. We are not God and cannot shoulder the burden of being God.” (p. 61)
Renouncing narcissism is the daily work of repentance we’re called to do. But turning from ourselves is not enough. We must daily turn to God as the center of this world and our lives.
“We have to worship our way out of our narcissistic glory hunger.” (p. 78)
I find that call personally helpful. It reminds me that worship is the first battle in the war for glory. This is my sanity as well as my sanctity.
Glory Ahead & Glory Around Us
Putting God back on the throne of glory is the first strategy Vassar gives us for the Spirit empowered war, but there are two more. We need to realize there is glory ahead and glory all around us.
The Christian is called to lose his life in order to gain it. This isn’t a call to hate glory, but to actually seek it in the right place, from God himself. “Not all glory hunger is bad,” Vassar asserts, referring to a major theme of Scripture.
He calls us to side with Jesus in the war for glory, even if it means siding against ourselves. This involves regularly denying these glory impulses:
- Reputation management
Vassar doesn’t leave us with self-denial, however. We are also called to see the glory in our neighbor. This positive emphasis will keep us from turning inward in our own war with glory.
I’ve highlighted so many parts of this book, I could write another dozen posts on it.
Get it. Read it. And make Christ your hope of glory one day at a time!