When my oldest got his driver’s license this past fall, I was thrilled. It was a moment I had looked forward to for months. After all, it meant less driving for me, and instead of shuttling him to school, sports, and meet ups with friends, he could now do it all on his own.
Yet when that day arrived and he was released to the streets on his own, instead of feeling excited—both for him and myself—I found myself fearful. Instead of gratitude for the extra time I now had, I found myself spending that time watching him on our family location-tracking app. I’d watch the little blue dot travel up and down the highway, holding my breath the entire time, only to exhale upon his safe return.
A Parent’s Fear
Like most parents, I’ve had countless fears for my children over the years. I felt fear every time they needed surgery. I felt fear the first time they went to sleep away camp. I felt fear when I finally said “yes” to my son’s repeated request to play football. My fears have not only centered around their physical harm; I’ve also worried for them emotionally—whether from bullies or a friend’s rejection or their experiences with failure. I’ve feared for their minds and the negative influence of the culture around them. And the older they get, the more I find myself fearing the unknown future.
Our fears come as a result of life in a fallen world. When our first parents sinned and ate from the forbidden tree, their first response was fear (Gen. 3:8-10). Before that fateful moment when Eve believed Satan’s lie and ate the fruit, Adam and Eve only knew peace and contentment. They trusted God and one another. They knew great joy as they communed with God. After the fall, everything changed. The impact of sin spread far and wide, from the soil of the earth to every human heart. Now, fearful things take place. People get sick and die. Accidents happen. Jobs are lost. Children fail in school. Natural disasters devastate communities. In a post-fall world, it is human to feel fear; even our Savior felt “greatly distressed and troubled” in the face of the cross to come (Mark 14:34).
Yet there is hope for all fearful hearts because we are not left alone in our fears. We have access to One who is greater.
The Fear of the Lord
Throughout Scripture, we read the oft-repeated command: “do not fear.” Some days, given the frightening world we live in, we are tempted to wonder how this could ever be possible. Yet in places like Isaiah 41:10, we often find that command given in conjunction with an encouraging truth about God and who he is: “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
In the face of our earthly fears, the Bible instructs us to turn to God and fear him, but this fear is different than the fears we have about our children. The fear of the Lord isn’t a panic or terror-filled fear; rather, the fear of the Lord is a holy combination of awe, wonder, reverence, love, adoration, trust, and worship (Psalm 27).
When the fears of life overshadow our days like a dense early morning fog, God calls us to look to him and see him as greater than all that we fear. For he is greater. This is what God told Isaiah when he sent him out to prophecy against Israel for their sin: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (Is. 8:12-13). God told Isaiah not to get caught up in Israel’s fears, but to fear him instead. Perhaps this admonition reminded Isaiah of his vision of heaven where he saw God in all his holiness, seated on the throne, high and exalted. In God’s presence, Isaiah saw everything else in perspective, including himself, for he fell before God and cried out “Woe is me!” (Is. 6:5).
We fear the Lord—we respond to who God is and what he has done for us with awe, wonder, reverence, trust, and adoration—because he is greater than all our fears and worthy of our worship. God is the supreme and sovereign King over all things. He knows and determines all things. He is holy, good, just, merciful, and gracious. He is the source of all life and sustains that life each day. Even more, he chose us in Christ to be his beloved. He rescued and redeemed us from sin and brought us back into relationship with him. We are his children and heirs of his Kingdom, and nothing and no one can separate us from him.
Our God calls us to come to him with our fears, to cry out to him, to seek his help and rescue. He calls us to see him as a greater, to know that not a hair can fall from our head apart from his will, and to trust that he works all things together for our good (Luke 21:18). We see many examples of this in the Psalms, where the Psalmist’s enemies pursued him, and he rightly feared for his life. In response to those fears, the Psalmist cried out to God and looked to the Lord for his deliverance: “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by” (Ps. 57:1).
The Psalmist brought his fears to the Lord because he believed that “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?” (Ps. 27:1). Passages such as these remind us that while we can’t escape the storms of life in this fallen world, we have a refuge, a place of safety in the shelter of the One who is greater. He is our refuge and strength in the face of all that we fear.
As I feared for my son driving on his own for the first time, I experienced a serious accident of my own. When I saw my son after, I said with streaming tears, “I could have died.” He responded, “God is in control. You couldn’t have died because he didn’t want you to die. So you didn’t.” My son’s words that day reminded me that I needed to turn from my lesser fears to the fear of the Lord. I needed to respond to the Lord with awe, wonder, love, and trust for his mercy and grace for me. I needed to not fear what may have happened, but to find my hope and help in him.
For our God is greater.
*This piece is inspired by Christina’s latest book, A Holy Fear: Trading Lesser Fears for the Fear of the Lord.