I’m kind of an expert on fear, having once been plagued by so many fears, fear of flying, fear of harmless garden snakes, fear of people’s disapproval…..fear of abandonment.
What we fear controls us. A lot of energy is wasted in attempting to avoid the things we fear. Pretty soon you have to structure your life around accommodating all your fears, so eventually they begin to control us.
I sometimes joke about how the cure for fear is actually……more fear. Bit of gallows humor there, but you get enough fear going on and something just breaks. You can only run on a hamster wheel of fear for so long before you just collapse and fall off. You just run out of steam. Meh, just let the darn garden snakes eat me, it can’t be any worse than trying to live like this…..
Fear of the Lord is a different thing entirely, “the beginning of all wisdom” as it says in the bible, but also an interesting paradox. What we fear controls us, but when you let the Lord control you, you actually find freedom. Safety. Joy. Excitement. You are no longer a slave to a million worldly fears and childhood scripts.
People-control can be downright ugly. People have agendas of their own, sometimes a hunger for power and control, self-serving tendencies. Not all people of course, some are very loving and other centered, but in general when people try to exercise control over you it is often self-centered. Your well-being is not their primary concern. It’s not even their secondary concern. In fact, your well-being may not even be in the picture at all…..
The Lord is very different, your well-being really is His concern. He cares for you. He died to know you, to bring you into closer relationship with Him. He is trustworthy, steadfast. Infinitely, unbelievably, kind. And “in a good mood,” as my blogger friend Michael often says. I love that! God is not a moody human, having a bad day and ready to take it out on you. He cares for us, He is invested in us.
Many atheists, even some Christians, fear the Lord, but in a totally wrong-headed way. Completely bass akwards, pardon my pig latin. They fear, the fear of the Lord, rather than the Lord Himself. Atheists can really mess with your head on this, because they fear ever being consumed by any fear of God, they fear ever letting God have any control over them….. a God they proclaim doesn’t even exist.
Nobody ever said fear had to be rational.
So what we fear controls us. That is where we invest our energy. We will serve what we fear. It’s simply human nature. It just is what it is. We are slaves to what we fear.
In my younger years I did not fear the Lord, not really. I recoiled in horror, at least emotionally, because fear is always about power and control, and in my life power and control always meant exploitation and abuse. In my mind, the best way to avoid abuse was simply to avoid ever letting anyone or anything, including God Himself, have any control over you.
It’s a bit of a tragic comedy, but in the very process of insisting on keeping God at a safe distance and actually fearing, “fear of God,” I wound up being controlled by anything and everything the world threw at me. Bondage…..even to harmless garden snakes.
There are two ditches on this road to fear of the Lord, steep embankments on either side, ravines you want to avoid. One side is what we shall call, “fire and brimstone”, those who shriek fear of the Lord at you, as if God really were an abusive human trying to control and manipulate you. Atheists are right to call this, “love me or I’ll kill you,” because that’s exactly what that mindset preaches. While there can be theological elements of truth woven in somewhere, emotionally and spiritually that is just all wrongheaded. That is so NOT the Lord I know. He does not want people so fearful we only follow Him because we are numb with terror, afraid of what He might do to us.
However, the other side of the ditch is just as bad. That is where we render God so loving, so gentle, so not scary, that He becomes almost spiritually impotent, having no actual power to protect us, certainly no power to move any mountains on our behalf. Hidden within fear of the Lord is also wisdom, and His power, joy, excitement. He knows us so well. He is not a God who is ever so peaceful, so calm, so familiar, as to be boring. I live in liberal utopia, I know this version of the Lord very well. He’s infinitely peaceful, a total pacifist, vegan even, always predictable, never scary, and very soon people just tuck Him away in a drawer somewhere. Eventually He just no longer really serves any real purpose in our lives. He’s sleeping on the couch and we have spiritually divorced Him. Jesus sure was a nice man…..but I’ve moved on to more exciting things now….
The Lord knows us so well. He knows what we need. He knows what we don’t need.
What we fear, controls us. Embracing faith and embracing the Lord, places the One in control over us who is truly worthy of such a place in our lives, One whose control over us, actually represents genuine freedom, contentment, joy, wonder, peace, excitement, whatever the secret desire of your heart truly is.
“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” -Philippians 2:12-13