Fear—it’s an emotion scripture tells me to avoid. I’m instructed “fear not” over and over again when faced with what people will think, storms, challenges, life, death, new situations, and more. But when it comes to my attitude towards God, I’m given a different instruction—a commandment to “fear God.”
So what does this mean? It seems like a contradiction, especially in light of 2 Timothy 1:7 where it says that God has not given me a spirit of fear. So why would He then tell me to fear Him?
A few years ago, I decided to do my own search on the fear of the Lord and was surprised by what I found. Unlike other fear that paralyzes, steals, destroys, and robs strength, there are beautiful benefits that come with fearing God such as wisdom (Psalm 111:10), knowledge (Proverbs 1:7), prolonged life (Proverbs 10:27), strong confidence and refuge (Proverbs 14:26), and a fountain of life (Proverbs 14:2).
Searching through scripture, I started to get it. Fearing God is not being afraid He is out to get me or waits to punish when I fail. Instead, it’s respecting and submitting to what He says is right and true above everything else.
It’s believing that God’s standard or commandments are set for my ultimate good and anything that strays from it will be destructive to me. It’s trusting that when I follow His way, the benefits mentioned above will begin to be evident in my life.
Psalm 19:7-10 gives additional benefits that come in fearing God. For example, restoration of the soul, making the simple wise, rejoicing the heart, enlightening the eyes, and enjoying a satisfying sweetness in life.
Fear vs. Fear
Healthy fear versus destructive fear can be compared to speeding in a car and breaking the state mandated limit. Like most drivers, I don’t keep the limit because I believe the law has set the standards to protect lives and is the wise thing to do.
No. Rather, I think the majority of drivers, like me, keep speed limits because we fear penalty and judgment. We are apprehensive of what law enforcement will do if we break the rules. Because of speed traps set to raise revenue, many drivers believe officers are out to “get us” for speeding with the purpose of imposing fees to fund their departments.
This illustrates a fearful type of fear, not the trusting kind that believes the one making the rules has our ultimate best in mind.
Both types of fear come down to control issues. The “do not be afraid” type of fear comes when I feel out-of-control in a situation. The “fear of the Lord” kind comes when I hand over my control to a perfect God, trusting His ability to know what is best in life over my own abilities.
The answer I’ve found in scripture in dealing with both types of fear is to trust God. And Ecclesiastes 12:13 seems to sum it up well by saying, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.”
Fearing God is actively handing over my control to Him, which in reality I don’t ever have in the first place and saying, “You know best God, so I choose Your way.”
As scripture affirms, fearing God brings beautiful results to my life. It also gives God the awe and reverence He deserves as the One who has perfect knowledge and wisdom in every area of life.