You hear the phrase 'the fear of God' thrown around but very few really think about what it means.
It seems simple enough. It seems like we should be afraid of God.
In once sense, the most obvious sense, that's true. God has power we cannot even imagine. When a comedian jokes about his father saying, 'I brought you into this world and I'll take you out...' It's meant to be funny/menacing. But God really did bring you into the world and He most certainly can take you out. Should that scare us? Yes.
And no. God, as you know, made us. He made us for a reason. He made us to love. He loves us. He wants us to love Him. He wants what is best for us and He alone knows what that is. But because love is a choice, He will not force us to love Him.
But if we follow Him, obey Him, and trust Him, He will 'set straight our paths.' This is how we show our love for Him. He will lead us to where we are supposed to be. He'll be patient and kind as He teaches us. He will be gentle and fair when He corrects us. He will even spare us pain if there is another way for us to learn what He wants us to know. He accepts us and saves us simply by our asking Him.
So far, 'fear' seems like the wrong word.
In fairness, some of us have undergone terrible things in our lives. If God allowed those things to happen, then He might allow it to happen again. Or something worse. Even if we haven't undergone truly terrible things, there is always the chance that we may in the future. That is where the fear of God comes from.
I respectfully suggest another way to think of it.
The world, including the people walking around in it, is broken. Because people are polluted by sin and by Satan running around loose wreaking havoc. Just as no one loves you as much as God does, nobody hates you as much as Satan does. He revels in our every tiny frustration, every significant blow-up, and every catastrophic loss. If he hurts us, it tickles him.
So why does God, who could vaporize Satan, keep him around? There is more to God's plan that letting mad-dog Satan run loose biting people. But Satan is a powerful, hateful, evil adversary of God, and of each of us. If he can drive a wedge between us and God, it suits him perfectly.
Why then, is he still here? In part, because God uses the pain and trouble and anger and every other negative experience and feeling we can have to build us. To strengthen us. To teach us something about Himself and how we need to stay close to Him and Trust Him.
As much as I like to belittle Satan, he is far too powerful an adversary for any human being to handle on their own. In fact, the only one Satan fears is God. His fear of God is well-founded. Because only God can put Satan down for good. And He will.
In the meantime, since we are sinners, He allows bad things into our lives to build our character, our resolve, and our faith. These troubles are tests. Tests that the Lord wants us to pass. So He helps. If we don't accept His help, it's likely we will fail. And He will have us take the test again. To hurt us again? No. He didn't hurt us the first time, Satan did. But He let us be hurt so that we could learn something important.
We know this because the Bible says so:
" And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
We have all been called to his purpose. And we all have the opportunity to love Him. Assuming we do, "in all things" (emphasis added), God is working to help us.
Does that mean He will always give us the easy way to go? No, unfortunately, "the good" doesn't necessarily mean "the fun" or "the comfort" or "the ease" of those who love Him. It can, but the lessons we remember most are usually the ones that stung, at least a little. Lessons that humbled you, that hurt you, that disappointed, betrayed, or shattered you.
"The good of those who love him" may involve hard lessons, painful disappointments, and other struggles that build our character even while sometimes breaking our hearts. Making us stronger is making us better, even when it involves short term pain.
Jesus promised, "In this life, you will have trouble." Like everything else He said, it's true. But the rest of the verse says, "But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33).
Since Jesus overcame 'the world' and because God works for the good of those who love Him, and since Jesus is God, we can infer that nothing we go through, no matter how hard, painful, or debilitating, will go to waste in the quest for God's refinement of His people. He will make us better through pain. That is for our good.
So, even when it hurts, our good is nothing to fear. Trust God. Thank Him for His patient, persistent refinement of your character. He knows what you need and when you need it. If He brings you to a test, He will bring you through it.
God bless you.
Jim Donaher is an author and blogger from Massachusetts. He recently published his first book, "Call Him, He's Home: A Regular Person's Guide to Prayer", now available on Amazon. Click on the title to take a look.
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