When you fear something, it is the first thing for which you look. The change is powerful, but often unnoticed, because we don’t see what we don’t see.
If you fear snakes and you are walking in the woods, you could almost walk into a tree because you are so snake-vigilant.
If you are a young boy who fears the rhyme, “Step on a crack and you’ll break your mama’s back,” then you scan every new room for tiles. A dozen people may be knocked down, but mama’s back is safe.
If you have a fear of rejection, then you look for and reinterpret every verbal exchange (and even the absence of exchanges) for possibility of not fitting in. Many compliments are deemed “only polite” in the name of avoiding rejection.
The point is, fear is more than an emotion. Fear changes how we think and what we see. Fear makes some things super-relevant and because of our limited cognitive capacity, forces other things (we’re never sure what) to relative irrelevance.
It is with this perspective that we can better understand how “the fear of the Lord is the beginning or wisdom (Job 28:28; Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7).” When we fear God we will look for Him in all situations and consider His will.
To help you personalize this, make a list of your most prevalent fears. From that list consider how you have organized your life to ease (please) those fears. Do you begin to see how innately fear brings practical change into our lives? We do not have to make plans, seek accountability, or find ways to remind ourselves when fear is involved.
The question becomes, “How do we grow in the fear of the Lord?” The answer begins with, “We must want to.” That may sound odd, but we entertain ourselves with fear all the time – movies, amusement park rides, novels, or the suspense of sporting events. Each of these are major industries of our culture that feed off fear (and its cousin emotions).
Isaiah 11:3 says, “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.” Notice that the fear of the Lord is said to be a delight. Also, notice that this fear changed what was seen and heard.
The answer continues with, “We must listen to our rival fears.” These fears (by definition) have a strong tendency to push us into folly. The problem is often not that our fears are wrong or misguided, but that we view our fears as more real, powerful, and present than our God. It is not that our fears completely lie; they just neglect the most important Fact in the universe.
The answer continues with, “We must allow our fears to point us back to God.” God is often not nearly so rough on us in our fear as we are on ourselves. The prayer that God gives us to pray is, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you (Psalm 56:3).” While fear does reveal a diminished view of God, God is more concerned (even elated) with the return of His children than He is offended by their departure (Luke 15:11-32).
The answer concludes with, “We must express our renewed view of God in practical faith.” This is where we often fear not being creative enough to figure out what to do. But this is also where our introduction provides great relief. When fear is present, the corresponding life changes are natural.
Once you have taken the journey of the first three steps, then you can trust this final step will be clear (although clear should not be mistaken for easy). This assurance can be particularly strong when you take this journey with mature Christian friends that you involve in the process.
Remember, you serve a God who delights in making Himself known; not playing hard to get.