The good kind of fear


So many things to fear.  To be human and do MORE than huddle in bed, sheets pulled up over our head, takes courage.

Cowering in bed

The Bible is very forthright when it comes to fear.  I can’t think of one Bible character whose fear is not described.  Abraham worried about the Egyptians and thus passed his wife, Sarah, off as his sister. Moses shrank back from the task God wanted to give him, that of confronting Pharaoh.  Esther trembled at the idea of approaching her husband the King without his initial bidding.

The former blind man’s parents feared excommunication from the Temple community when asked to explain why their grown son could now see. The disciples feared the Romans and met furtively behind locked doors after Jesus’ execution.

And this week we faced horror after horror as events in Paris, Syria and Nigeria unfolded, just to name a few!

But there are also more mundane fears.  Friday, I had the occasion to chaperone middle school students on the first of five afternoons skiing here in Western North Carolina.  It had been 12 years since I took to the slopes.  I found myself feeling nervous due to the unknown arrangements of ski rental (will my feet cramp in those confining blocks of cement?), of navigating the ski lifts (will I ‘miss’ the moving seat and fall and make a fool of myself?), of avoiding dare-devil kids on snowboards (will I fall and break something and not be able to complete my daily walks?)

John Calvin observed that our hearts are ‘idol-factories’. Well, we are equally skilled at inventing fears.

Therefore, I felt greatly encouraged by a Desiring God blog post entitled Trading Fear for Fear

Reading it over several times (the link is above) and grappling to put the truths into my own words, I have concluded that God MEANS us to fear and has wired us to do so. But there is a right kind of fear and a wrong kind of fear.

I’m curious to learn how YOU would explain the godly kind of fear (no one needs any help in describing our default mechanism to fear the unknown and the threatening).  Here is what I have concluded from studying God’s word and letting it sink in:

  1. Fearing God – Hebrew word YIRAH (Strong’s # 3374) is experiencing  awe and respect and even a thrill at the ‘greater-than-we-can-grasp’ power and majesty and being of God.  Psalm 2:11 illustrates this posture as in “Worship/Serve the Lord in Yirah (reverence) and rejoice in trembling.
  2. The proper fear of the Lord is actually a gift granted to those to whom light is given.  Before this ability to see, we actually have a twisted view of the world and of God.  For in fact, we are by nature born into darkness and the light with which we see and evaluate the world is about as powerful as that emanating from your bathroom nightlight.  When God, via the Holy Spirit, flips on the switch giving us HIS light, we then see the truth of the world for the first time. We then begin to KNOW who God is and how life, liberty and joy are the birthright of all of us who grab hold of this true, forever and loving God who has given us new birth.
  3. Therefore, until we are transferred from the Kingdom of Darkness in to the Kingdom of Light, we can’t understand the right kind of fear, godly fear, because we don’t see/understand God correctly.  (Colossians 1:13 –He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.)
  4. Once our eyes are opened, we can begin to fear God properly. And what blessings accompany this YIRAH/correct attitude and posture toward God! Just do a google search on ‘fear of the Lord’ and feast on the many promises of God.

5. Finally (and this helps me the most), I can’t fear two completely opposite things at one time.  Why not?  Aren’t we good at multi-tasking?  Perhaps YOU are, but it’s more than holding 2 ideas together at one time.  What we fear, what we respond to is dictated by what we look at.  If I focus on troubling world circumstances like the evil terror that seems unrestrained and growing, or if I dwell on my imagined fears accompanying upcoming new experiences, or if I worry about what might happen if this or that happens, then I am fearing PRECISELY in a way that God commands me NOT to. Isaiah 8:12 is a good reminder: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.”

However, when we fear/revere/thrill/look at the awe-FUL, wonder-FUL character and works of God, then all sorts of attendant resources are made available to us, besides JOY.  The same prophet Isaiah assures of that….

33:6 He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.

2a - Maria skiing for first time in 13 yrs - 9 Jan 2006

What to do with fear, worry, doubt and self-pity

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Francis Frangipane quickly put his finger on just what fear, worry, doubt and self-pity are:  tools in the hand of the devil.

Frangipane - the 3 battlegrounds

In his book on spiritual warfare, Link to Amazon here, Frangipane explains how by recognizing when there is a disturbance to your peace, you can turn away from all those SELF-feelings and submit to God’s will.  The supernatural gift of peace that will flood or trickle back into your consciousness is actually a blow against Satan.




Here’s how this teaching has helped me during the past week.

Multiple times I caught myself worshipping the false God of the What If (that is – meditating on imaginary fearful scenarios – some of my temptations to worry focus on the safety of my kids and their families driving….)

When I caught myself worrying/fearing, I stopped and said:

  • This feeling is a tool from Satan
  • I’m serving a false god by spinning out these thoughts
  • Let me run back to the only true and living God
  • He tells me: “Don’t fear what they fear; do not be frightened” (1 Pet 3:14b)

A brief parenthetical explanation – I learned last weekend at the Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference in Orlando that to eliminate the satanic fears that plague us (what one speaker called ‘servile fear’ – akin to what a prisoner might experience being dragged off to be tortured and/or executed) we must replace them with the healthy, life-giving fear that God bestows on us when we are saved.  This is a ‘filial fear’.  This right view of God, called the Fear of the Lord, is similar to what a beloved and secure daughter or son feels toward the parent whom they want to make smile.

  • My God reminds me of the healthy kind of fear by saying, “Instead of those deadening, depressing fears you’ve indulged in, fear ME, the God who created you and who sustains you.  Then you will see clearly and be reminded that I have everything under control.  Keep your eyes on ME and step by step I will guide you because your heart is focused on submitting to my will.
  • Once I have thought this through (takes about 30 seconds), I breathe deeply and the peace flows back into my consciousness.

fear of the lord







As encouraged as I am by this new way of thinking, I want you to know how often I bow down to the god of fear and worry. I catch myself falling back into life-sucking thoughts multiple times in the day.  But I’m beginning to feel more powerful, now that I can talk back to the Master Liar and step back into the light.

talk back to the devil

Psalm 34: 7 to 9  The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing

Treasure and True Confessions


The fear of the Lord is his treasure – Isaiah 33:6

I love the fear of the Lord, that concept.  I know that sounds weird.  But let me explain myself.  We all fear something or someone.  Just like we all worship something.  In fact, I will go as far as to say that God has MADE us to fear and to worship.  Those tendencies are wired into us.  Our problem comes when we fear or worship anything other than God.

So who might we fear?  I actually fear others, what others MIGHT think of me.  That holds me back from doing what I should.

If you knew me, you would be surprised.  I appear to be a very self-confident and competent woman who is outgoing.  But my secret, paralyzing fear is this:  if I talk about Jesus to either strangers OR friends who are not Christians, they are going to:

a)   Think that I am a________ (picture in your mind the most simpleton/hokey/red-neck, drooling Christian you can imagine) and/or

b)   They are going to want to avoid me the next time our paths cross and I am going to know why!

Both of those scenarios are distasteful to me.

Because of what I fear, I don’t talk directly about Jesus.  Diagnosis?  I fear man rather than God.  Why do I value and seek THEIR approval and high regard more than God’s?  Do I really think so little of Jesus’ work on the cross that I am loathe to bring it up amidst people drowning in their own sin? Good question!  I don’t know.  But I do know it is wrong.

Since undertaking a challenge with my young friend Caitlin, I have grown more aware of this misplaced fear.  Caitlin is 17 years old.  She and I recently read a book by James Boccardo, Unsilenced:  How to Voice the Gospel.  Caitlin read it once and started talking to people about Jesus.  I had read it twice when she emailed me a couple of weeks ago.  Caitlin has been talking about life after death and Jesus to Wal-Mart greeters, Dollar Store employees, and her supervisor where she volunteers. How’s that for guts! Her boldness shamed me into finally taking the plunge.  Stalling, waiting around, talking about, re-reading the book had produced no magic melting away of fear.

I am comforted and encouraged to know that Caitlin is praying for me as I stick my big toe into this new experience.  So far, my imagined scenarios have not materialized with the three people I’ve approached.  Nonetheless, daily I have to talk to myself about why fearing the Lord is much better than fearing man.

God’s Word reminds us in many places (just do a search on ‘fear of the Lord’) of the treasures that are waiting for us if we fear Him.  So what does fear mean?   Fearing God is all about wanting to please Him, revering Him, worshipping Him, making Him more important than anything else.  Fear or the Hebrew word yir’ah (Strongs 3374) is about having the correct attitude toward God.  It’s not slavish cowering, but respectful acknowledgment of who God is and our place as His creature. After all, He controls all things including me.   This kind of fear or respect is like how I imagine a blacksmith might treat his burning hot tools.  He knows the dangers and how close he can get to the heat.  Knowing the boundaries gives him freedom to perform his artistry and craft with confidence.

When we know who God is and understand our relationship to Him as a dependent daughter or son, infinitely loved by Him, we hold the key to a treasure trove.  So the proper yir’ah or fear of the Lord is the beginning of a rich relationship.

Everyone knows the Proverb 1:7 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  We cannot even begin to understand God without this mindset.  The prophet Isaiah called this attitude toward God one of the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit. If we are His, if we are born again and have the Holy Spirit in us, this is what God promised Jesus and us, His brothers and sisters……

And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear.  (Is 11: 2-3)

I am thankful for Caitlin.  Knowing that she is out there, holding her light up in the  midst of a dark world, talking about eternal matters with her ‘neighbors’ makes it easier for me.  God doesn’t ask for success; He asks for a willing and dependent heart.  Look what He promises us for trusting in His provision and stepping out:

The fear of the Lord leads to life and whoever has it rests satisfied.  Prov 19:23a

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