The world before science must have been terrifying. How do you explain something like a thunderstorm without an understanding of what weather is? Why is it uncomfortably cold for months then uncomfortably hot? Why does it flood? It’s no wonder that primitive civilizations created gods in their own image, ostensibly giving themselves a sense of control. By offering sacrifices to the sun god, it seemed that one might be able to favorably influence the outcome of the harvest. Perhaps a fertility god could help a barren couple to conceive. When people are terrified, it’s natural to want to reestablish control. Though the sun god has mostly fallen out of favor, it still seems like people respond to fear in the same way – by creating systems and trying to establish control. Ironically, this is the beginning of how our fears control us.
Perhaps this is why the Psalmist explained that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” If we transfer our fear to the living God, who is good, at least we have begun to fear something worthy of our fear. In the book of Hebrews, we read that Jesus, through His death, frees those “who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” We also read in Paul’s letter to the Romans, “You have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out Abba! Father!” The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but it isn’t the end of it.
Over time, we learn that God is to be feared the way the Grand Canyon is to be feared. The canyon is dangerous, uncontrollable, and unpredictable. It is. If you don’t respect the Grand Canyon, it can take your life. But the power of the Grand Canyon also makes it captivating. Its vastness literally inspires awe. You can’t look at the Grand Canyon for very long without wanting to show it to someone.
When fear is transformed into awe, it becomes captivating. People are drawn in. And this is what God is in the business of doing – transforming our fears into something beautiful. “For He has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
When we live under a spirit of fear, the opposite happens: People look around anxiously. They run away. They panic. They isolate themselves. In this world, where people literally “make terror”, the way we overcome it is the same way we always have: Love.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18
Fear is a human response. Love is a divine response. This is why we love our enemies. This is why we pray for people who persecute us. This is why we give up control. When we let a spirit of fear permeate our lives and punctuate our sentences, we become slaves to fear. Instead, we choose to fear God and love people. Recklessly if we must, because the alternative is slavery.
Bio A former church planter who now co-leads a technology consulting business with two friends from high school. A dad to two precocious boys and married to my college sweetheart. I want to be a pilot when I grow up...