Note: This post is the second in a series about fear. Read the previous post, “A Woman Who Fears the Lord,” to get caught up.
What’s the difference between fear of God and worldly fear? If the fear of God consists of reverence, humility and worship, what does it mean to apply those aspects to people, objects and situations?
Let’s take my example (in the previous post) of being afraid to disappoint other people. When I deeply long for the approval of others, the natural emotional response in my heart is fear when I discover I might not always get what I desire. The approval of others becomes what I give reverence to – I see it as highly important and even necessary. But instead of operating in humility (the second aspect of healthy fear), I turn to pride. Here’s why: when I look on approval of others as a god-like figure in my life and quickly discover that it cannot deliver (as opposed to God, who always lives up to His status as God), I realize I have to look inside myself to make up for what is lacking in my god. I begin to work hard to control other people’s view of me. My focus is completely on myself, thus creating pride in my heart. And who do I worship in this scenario? Absolutely and only myself.
So my main goal when I come to my senses and realize I’m operating in fear should be to run to God. In Him reside all goodness and hope and peace. But so often I don’t see Him rightly, so I approach Him in the wrong way. When I am afraid, I find myself approaching God as someone who can either give me what I want or judge me unworthy and send me away with nothing. What a sad commentary on my view of Him! The sin lies not merely in the fact that I’m afraid. The sin lies in the way I approach God and expect Him to magically remove fear and make me happy.
So practically speaking, let’s put this in perspective. It’s Christmastime. You’ll be visiting family, and this may give you a sense of impending doom. Not all your family members are fun to be around or easy to get along with. You feel your heart constricting and your mind spinning. What if that elephant-in-the-room subject is brought up? What if everyone ends up fighting and the fun gets ruined?
Or what if you’ve been watching your food intake like a hawk, and now you’re afraid you’ll blow the whole thing by eating everything in sight? What if you dread facing someone in your family who harmed you terribly? What if this is your first Christmas without a loved one, and you’re afraid of facing that grief? There are a myriad of possible dangers looming around every corner. How will you approach God when you are afraid? Will you run to Him as Father and redeemer? Or will you pridefully seek to control outcomes? Or perhaps you’ll run to Him but strictly out of frustration, expecting Him to hurry up and give you relief.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling” (Psalm 46:1-3).
No matter what fears you’re facing this Christmas season, God is your refuge and strength. In Him alone lie true peace and hope. I encourage you to reflect on Psalm 46 this week. Let your heart be reminded that He is what you need when the mountains are moved into the heart of the sea.
In the next post, we’ll talk about how to cultivate the fear of God in our lives and how to reject worldly fear.
Questions for Reflection:
- What’s your typical go-to response when fear comes? How does your response reflect the state of your heart?
- What types of worldly fear are typical for you?
Passages to Study: Psalm 46; Psalm 147:1-11