Cultivating a Fear of the Lord

by Alexa Hess

When I was a little girl, my first reaction to a nightmare was to run into my parent’s room. It was something about being in the presence of my parents that brought instant comfort and relief from my fears. As I got older, it has been harder to find solace in times of fear. After all, as a 27-year old, I can’t run into my parent’s bedroom when I’m afraid. Who or what do you go to when you are afraid? Maybe you seek relief from a person nearby. Or maybe there is a beloved item that brings comfort. God is the only One who can truly silence our fears. His presence is the only remedy for a worried heart.

As our Heavenly Father, God welcomes His children to run to Him in moments of fear. When we were kids, we ran to our parents because they felt bigger than what we were scared of. Our parents feel strong and powerful, and just being near them washed away our fears. This is how we are to feel about our Heavenly Father. The greatness of God supersedes even our greatest fears. Anything we are afraid of pales in comparison to our holy and almighty God.

When we see God for who He is, we will run to Him. However, in moments of fear, we can sometimes allow what makes us afraid to be bigger than the Lord. When we forget that God is mighty and powerful, we allow our fear to overwhelm us.

Peter experienced this reality when he walked on water toward Jesus, as documented in Matthew 14:22-33. In case you are unfamiliar with the story, Peter and the other disciples were in a boat and in the middle of a storm. Suddenly they saw a man, who turned out to be Jesus, walking on the water. When Jesus announced that it was Him, the disciples didn’t believe Him. So Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter answered him, “command me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28). So Jesus asked Peter to come to Him. Peter stepped out of the boat and began walking on the water. Then, he began to sink.

What changed? He focused his attention on what was happening around him rather than the person in front of Him. In the same way, we can allow our circumstances to shake us and riddle us with fear. Instead of focusing on the Lord, we focus on the very thing that is making us afraid. To combat fear, we must fix our eyes on our all-powerful God.

One of the best pieces of wisdom I’ve heard when it comes to battling fear is to let our greatest fear be the fear of the Lord. However, fearing the Lord can easily be misunderstood. Seeing the word “fear” can lead us to think that we are to be afraid of God just like we are afraid of other things. If we view God as someone to be afraid of, we won’t go to Him. We’ll shrink away from Him rather than move toward Him. Fearing the Lord is not about being afraid of God but approaching Him with holy reverence in awe of who He is. This type of fear also brings us to delight in God and enjoy His presence in gratitude for the relationship we have with Him.

Proverbs 14:26 tells us, “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence and his children have a refuge.” When we walk in fear of the Lord, we walk in courage and security. Daily fixing our eyes on the Lord, worshipping and trusting Him, elevates God above our fears. But how do we cultivate a daily fear of the Lord? To cultivate fear of the Lord, we must grow in awe and delight over the gospel. When we forget that we have been reconciled to God, we can fear God with reverence but not delight. We can acknowledge that God deserves worship but feel unworthy to enter into His presence. But daily reminding ourselves that we have been reconciled to God encourages us to be in God’s presence.

Awe and delight paired together is a powerful combination. The fact that God is holy, infinite, and over all things leads us to marvel at His greatness. But the fact that through Christ we are brought near to our holy God leads us to joy and delight. The good news of the gospel encourages us to draw close to the Lord. As we draw close to God, we will worship, obey, and adore Him. In doing so, we walk in fear of the Lord.

When we cultivate awe and delight for the Lord, we won’t be as quick to allow things of this world to make us afraid. Marveling over and delighting in the greatness of God keeps our eyes fixed upon Him. Even when circumstances arise that stir up fear in us, we will have peace as we focus our minds on the Lord. As we go to the Lord in prayer and open up His Word, His presence will calm our hearts and soothe our worried minds.

We all have a choice of who or what to run to in times of fear. May our fear of the Lord cause us to run into the open arms of God, sinking into His perfect peace.

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