The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
– Proverbs 9:10
I’ve been thinking about fear lately.
I once gave a presentation at work, which entailed me speaking in front of several hundred people, spread over four sessions. As we were preparing for the first session, one of my co-workers asked me why I wasn’t nervous.
The fact is, I was nervous. But just a little, and not enough to show. But here’s what I told her:
“I am a parent. I know what fear is. And this isn’t it.”
I said it with a smile, and she, being a parent herself, laughed in recognition. But what I said, though it was entirely spontaneous, was the only answer to give, after seventeen years of being a parent. Because a big part of being a parent means experiencing worry and fear.
And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I have never been what I consider a brave person. I’m not a daredevil, I’ve never really enjoyed putting myself or those I love in dangerous situations. But I am beginning to appreciate fear.
For starters, fear is not necessarily a bad thing. This depends, of course, upon what the object of our fear is, but I am beginning to appreciate fear for its character-building attributes. Fear drives me to pray; it drives me to my knees. And I find, upon rising, that I am somewhat toughened by the experience of facing my fears, handing them to my Father, and receiving, in return, resolution, strength, and, at times, a single-minded and almost ferocious determination to persevere.
I find upon rising that I am braver, and that is a strange thing to experience for one like me who has never considered himself particularly brave.
Now, how this will translate to true bravery when the real test comes – and I don’t feel that I’ve yet been truly tested – only time will tell. But I feel God building me up, brick by brick, for that day, and I pray that I will withstand the fires that must surely come.
I daily observe, in the lives of other people and in my own life as well, actions and words driven by fear of what others might think, with hardly a thought given to the fear of God. And yet his word makes it clear that we are to fear him, and him alone. And, yes, of course, the fear of God is best described as an awe-filled reverence. Yet I believe there are times when stark terror is an appropriate response too! Our God is mighty, and jealous, and determined, and glorious, and beyond all we can comprehend. He laid the very foundation of the earth “when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy”. He is the commander of the heavenly host, before which men fall dumb to the ground, and yet he stayed the attack of his grieving legions when the Incarnate Son suffered on the cross, for his fierce love of us and of his own glory.
And he has promised to build this same character in me: the bravery and determination and love of Christ that gave his own life as an offering of praise to the Father.
All of creation, from the smallest particle to the grandest galaxy, declares his glory! And here we are, worrying about what Joe thinks, and giving not a thought to the one we should truly fear.
I want to fear God. And in the working out of that fear, I want him to build into me the bravery of Jesus, to give my life for others as an offering to the Father.
In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.
– Proverbs 14:26