The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life turning one from the snares of death. Proverbs 14:27
Snakes, alligators and driving on narrow roads scare the snot out of me! I suppose we all have things that rattle us, some fears make sense and some seem pretty random but fear is something that probably touches us all. I’ve been taught to be cautious about things like big bodies of water, storms, dark parking lots and fire but those aren’t terrifying to me like snakes and gators. So where do fear, caution and fear of the Lord intersect? Fear of the Lord is a gift of the Holy Spirit and it’s something I’ve been puddling around in my mind for most of the summer. If it’s a gift, it must be important and I can be certain it is given to help us get to heaven so I figured I needed to know a little more. I’m thinking maybe you’d like to know a little more too.
At first pondering, it seems a little contrary because if God is love and He created us out of love and His ambition is for us to become saints and live eternally with Him in heaven, why would we be afraid of someone who wanted something that awesome for us? I had to take some time and dissect the word “fear” to really understand. When I think of my fear of snakes, I know my reaction upon seeing one would be screaming, running and probably an overwhelming desire to set fire to the spot where I saw it. I’m supposed to fear the Lord but that’s not the reaction He has in mind. I suppose my snake thing is probably more like terror than fear and that is not the kind of fear this gift of the Holy Spirit is leading me to.
I came across this passage that really made sense to me, “When the bible refers to fear of the Lord, it means having a deep reverence, respect and awe for the power and authority of God. Rather than being afraid of God, a proper Fear of the Lord leads us to Love Him.” With absolute certainty, God loves us and protects, defends, guides and adores us but sometimes people take that “The Father loves me” idea to the point that the Father can seem more like a buddy. Scripture is crystal clear about the mercy, grace and compassion of the Father but His ways are not our ways nor will they ever be so thinking of Him as a fuzzy buddy isn’t in our best interest if sainthood is our mission. The gift inspires us to approach the Father with awe and reverence and wonder not as equals or pals. This gift reminds me that He has authority over me and His word is to be respected and honored. That authority is exercised over me for my own good…it’s serious business and straying from the boundaries of His authority comes with consequence. If I see Him as a buddy to be reasoned with I’m thinking about it all wrong and that isn’t going to end well for me at all!
The verse from Proverbs says this gift is life giving and helps us avoid the snares of death or in other words, fear of the Lord helps us attain life in heaven and avoid hell. I’ve really had to do some praying about being respectful in my prayers, my mass participation and the ways the Gospel asks me to treat others. It’s been pretty eye opening. This gift reminds me that heaven isn’t a score card where I chalk up points for good or impressive behavior…there is no score; there is just love and respect and reverence are the greatest form of love I can offer the Father. I heard Fr. Mike Schmitz talk about Fear of the Lord and I’m going to end with the way he summed up this great gift. God is to be feared; or respected, revered and honored which is very different than being afraid or terrified of Him simply because we’re afraid we’ll go to hell if we tick Him off too many times. He put it perfectly when he said, “Fear God out of love, don’t love God out of fear.”
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time this week thinking about what Fear of the Lord looks like in your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you grow in this gift so you can grow in love.
Blessings on your day!
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