I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to run from it – telling myself that my fears are unjustified and even imagined. I’ve seen counselors and doctors. I’ve cried many, many tears and hidden in too many dark rooms because of fear. I’ve missed out on things I badly wanted to be a part of. I’ve run and run, always chased by the specter of fear that seems to be the thorn in my side that God will use to strip me down to my most bare and basic self.
Fear, for me, has always been a bad thing.
And now, suddenly, I find myself desperately trying to turn that perspective around. I find myself now trying to embrace fear as it should be. I find myself trying to instill in myself a fear that is justified and even expected.
There is a fear, I’m learning, that is good and true.
There is a fear that brings light and life, rather than stripping life down to a minimal existence lived in the darkness.
“Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11)
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10)
“The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive.” (Deuteronomy 6:24)
“Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere Him. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” (Psalm 33:8-9)
The fear of the Lord is the one fear in life that is worth having and pursuing and dwelling on. The fear of the Lord is a healthy one. It is one to chase after, rather than run from.
A few weeks ago in my small group, we watched one of Francis Chan’s BASIC videos. After watching the first one, we had a challenging discussion on the fear of God. After just a few minutes of discussion, it became very clear that we all could agree on one thing about the concept of fearing God: We didn’t understand it.
What is the fear of God, really? If God is good…loving…benevolent and merciful and gracious and forgiving…..then why should we fear Him, as Scripture says? What is scary about a God who is so good?
Those questions burned on my mind for a few days, and the following Sunday on the way home from church, I had an interesting revelation about this idea of fear and fearing God.
I was driving down a road that carries a speed limit of 45 miles per hour. I was in a good mood, as was my daughter in the back seat, and I was cruising down the road with nary a care in the world. I was minding my own business…doing my own thing. All of a sudden, I looked ahead and saw a motorcycle cop sitting on the side of the road, facing in my direction. He had his speed-checking thingamajig pointed toward oncoming traffic and I, reflexively, looked down at my speedometer to verify that I would not be singled out.
When I did, I made a scary discovery: I was flying down the road at 60 miles an hour…a full 15 miles over the speed limit. I panicked. My stomach lurched into my throat…my heart stopped and then raced…my palms began sweating profusely.
“I’m busted,” I thought. “It’s done. He got me.”
I slowed down and began to watch my rearview mirror for flashing blue lights. I watched, and I watched, and I watched….
…but the blue lights never came.
In that moment, driving along at 42 miles per hour, I understood the fear of the Lord a little bit more.
That cop had every reason to pull me over. He would have been completely justified to pull me over…ticket me…squash me like a bug. I broke the law, and it is his job to enforce it. Had he slapped me with a hefty fine, I would have had no argument.
For some reason, though, he didn’t pull me over. He didn’t give me a ticket, and I didn’t have to pay a fine.
See, that was a reminder to me of my position in this world. I am a tiny part of a huge picture, and then there’s God. He reigns over everything, in a position always to slap me with a hefty penalty for my erroneous behavior. He is GOD, after all. He made the world…and the rules that govern it…and should I break one (or a hundred) of those rules, He is completely right to punish me. I cannot cruise through my life thinking it’s all about me…or worse, not thinking at all. I never thought I’d say this, but here is a pop culture cliché to brighten your day: life is a highway. I have to mind the others on the road and, more importantly, the authorities who govern the road.
It’s not about me, and fear of the Lord? I think it’s about realizing that.
Fear of the Lord is seeing how small I am and how big – how amazingly big and good and perfect and strong and just – God is. Fear of the Lord is having a right perspective of my place in this world…and of placing God in His rightful position over everything. Fear of the Lord, really, is about so much more than respect, as we love to reduce it down to. Fear of the Lord is about awe.
Fear of the Lord is having awe in a Being that is more than we can ever know…and accepting that we can never get it all, can never be good enough, can never do anything impressive enough. Fear of the Lord is knowing that at any moment, the God of the Universe – the One who knit me together – can choose to destroy me. He can, and if He should, He would be justified.
I am a mess, and He is immensely perfect.
Fear of the Lord is matching up my imperfections – my many, many flaws – with immaculate holiness and seeing the vast void between the two.
And then, at that moment when all seems hopeless and there seems to be nothing I can ever do and I reach utter despair…………there is grace. There is no squashing or penalizing.
There has to be a healthy balance between fear and grace. Fear throws us face down on the floor, while grace picks us up and wipes our tears. Fear quickens our pulse in terror….grace allows us to rest in safety.
The tricky part of this walk with Christ…this journey down the highway of life with God…is to find that balance. It is hard. It is very hard to live in a proper balance between trembling and trust. When we find it, though, we find God. When we find it, everything is worth it.
Journeying with you,