What do you fear?
We all know what it is to fear something. We live in a fallen world where fearful events and circumstances are plenty. Incurable diseases. Crime. Loss. War. We know that feeling in the pit of our stomach when we hear bad news of some kind. We know what it is for our heart to race and our minds to be on alert for danger. Fear can be a temporary emotion in the face of frightening circumstances, such as when we race to the basement to seek shelter when the tornado sirens sound. This is a normal human response to life in a fallen world.
But fear can also be a way of life. Our fears, such as fear of failure, what others think of us, the unknown future, can rule our life. They can keep us up at night and gnaw at us throughout the day, warning us of perceived dangers around every corner. They can stop us in our tracks and prevent us from living our life. Our fears can rule our choices, shape our days, and steer our hearts. And ultimately, our fears can keep us from trusting in God alone.
Do Not Fear
The Bible has a lot to say about fear. If you spend any time in Scripture, you quickly notice the command to not fear. “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). “Do not fear” is widely considered the most common command in the Bible, found in both the Old and New Testaments.
“And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever” (Exodus 14:13).
“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled” (1 Peter 3:14).
At first glance, such a command seems unrealistic. We might read such instructions and immediately recall all the well-meaning friends or relatives who have said trite things like, “Don’t fear, just have faith” or “Just believe and everything will work itself out.” We might read these admonitions as trite and perhaps even downright impossible. Yet when God tells us not to fear, he’s not saying that we need to just believe more. He’s not saying we just need to have faith that everything will be okay, and it will. Instead, he calls us to something greater. To Someone greater.
Fear the Lord
The Bible teaches that when we face fear to respond with the fear of the Lord (see Matt. 10:27-31). Yet the fear we have for God is not the same as the fear we have of harm or of what others think of us. When the Bible says “do not fear” it is referring to terror or panic. But when it says, “fear the Lord” it means something different. In this context, it means to respond to God with awe and reverence. The more we study and explore the fear of the Lord in Scripture, we find that it encompasses even more, especially when we see it lived out in the lives of God’s people. The fear of the Lord includes awe and wonder, reverence and worship, love and adoration, trust and obedience. Charles Spurgeon summarized the fear of the Lord as shorthand for “expressing real faith, hope, love, holiness of living, and every grace which makes up true godliness.”
The fear of the Lord is coming into the presence of our amazing and magnificent God and seeing him for who he is in his holiness, wonder, might, righteousness, truth, justice, goodness, and grace. It’s seeing ourselves in contrast and being wonderstruck at his amazing grace that he would rescue and redeem sinners such as us. It is marveling at all God has done for us in Christ and relishing the truth that we are his children and that we are welcome into the Beloved. It is responding in appropriate love and honor to the One who has made us his own.
When we fear the Lord, he grows bigger in our eyes than all our lesser fears. We when we fear him, we see him as greater. Before our amazing God, our lesser fears grow weak and lose their grip on us. This is why the psalmist could say, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1). While the psalmist had many reasons to fear—after all, he was on the run from his enemies! —yet, in the face of such fear, he feared the Lord. He looked to the Lord for salvation and trusted him to rescue and save.
So, as I asked at the beginning, what do you fear? Whatever your fear is, bring it to the throne of grace in confidence. Come before your heavenly Father and voice those fears to him. See those fears in contrast to your holy and magnificent God. He is your salvation and your stronghold.
For when God is great in our eyes, everything else shrinks in comparison.
Editors Note: We encourage you to get a copy of Christina’s latest book, A Holy Fear: Trading Lesser Fears for the Fear of the Lord from Reformation Heritage.
Christina Fox writes for a number of Christian ministries and publications including True Woman, ERLC, and The Gospel Coalition. Christina also serves on the advisory board at Covenant College and in women’s ministry at her church. She prefers her coffee black and from a French press, enjoys antiquing, hiking, traveling, and reading. She is the author of A Heart Set Free: A Journey Through the Psalms of Lament.