(Graphic artwork by McKenzi Matsick)
Fear Can Be…Good?
By Jacqueline Napoli
Our boat bobbed calmly on the water one bright sunny morning as we stopped the boat about 10 miles offshore of Huntington Beach. I tossed my paddleboard off the back and ventured on a mini sea exploration, while my husband fished. But I found him all freaked out when I returned. Apparently, I’d wandered so far, he couldn’t see me, and I didn’t hear him shouting, or honking, or anything. The way he tells the story, I have no fear at all. Or sense.
But I disagree – I was scared out there. I knew if something went bad, I could be a goner. I know the ocean is dangerous! But the joy it brings me, and the immense love affair I have with it, makes it worth any risk.
I think God is kinda, sorta like that. He holds our lives in His hand, He spoke us into being, He rules the universe. That’s power. And sometimes that does scare me.
But His immense love, truth, and faithfulness transform the fear of His power and holiness into this exquisite wonder and awe, not unlike how I feel about the ocean. His grandeur and awesomeness are why I love Him.
Curious, I looked up the “fear of the Lord”… and now I want it more than ever. Check out its benefits:
- Satisfaction (something so rare!)
- Long life
- Deliverance & rescue
- Protection from evil
- God makes a scrapbook about your conversations
- Salvations multiply
- Jesus is magnified
- Better than great treasure, rubies, or gold
- God’s everlasting mercy and righteousness upon you
- He encamps around you and delivers you
- It’s a fountain of life (an endless, bubbling, fresh source)
Who doesn’t want that? Sign me up!
I searched the Scripture for what the fear of the Lord actually is. Is it being terrified and afraid of God? Ummmm… no. But it is:
- Clean, enduring forever
- Departing from evil and doing good
- Seeking and going after peace
- Hating evil, pride, arrogance, and a perverted mouth
- Not speaking evil or deceitfully
- The very Treasure of the Lord
- Received by asking and sincere seeking
(I found these mainly in Psalms and Proverbs, by searching the Blue Letter Bible app for keywords “Fear of the Lord.”)
So, I thought, what’s its opposite? The fear of man? Here’s what I found about caring about what other people think instead of what God thinks.
- It’s a trap (Prov. 29:25).
- It leads us to rebel against God and disobey Him, bringing discipline and loss of honor, blessing, and promotion (1 Sam. 15:23). Saul feared the people rather than God, and it cost him his crown as Israel’s first king.
- It causes us to hide our faith and be “closet” believers. Many important Jewish leaders hid their faith in the Messiah because they feared their peers’ responses (John 12:42-43).
- Tempts us to get “carried away” in hypocrisy. Even Peter and Barnabas became posers and pretenders because they feared what “important” people thought (Gal. 2:13).
- We betray those we are supposed to protect. Abraham allowed Sarah to become part of Abimelech’s harem, or cluster of wives, because he thought he would get killed if they found out she was his wife (Gen. 20:11). But God supernaturally protected her and she was untouched, and Peter later exalted her for being fearless – another fruit of fearing God.
These examples were the result of a pretty brief search! I learned that as the vast, mysterious, dangerous ocean gives me such deep enduring joy, the fear of the Lord is an unsearchable source of life, joy, and everything amazing our souls thirst after.
The fear of the Lord is not an emotion, but a lifestyle. And its alternative, living for what people think rather than what God thinks, comes up empty every time. Isaiah 33:6 says the fear of the Lord is actually His treasure, and that it gives us stability, salvation, wisdom, and knowledge.
I’ll take that any day. Lord, teach us the fear of You!