anxiety

When Fear Is Strong

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In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence,

and his children will have a place of refuge.

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life

to turn ⌊one⌋ away from the grasp of death. (Proverbs 14:26-27 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 14:14-33 GW)


The fear of God is often misunderstood. Western culture typically portrays fear as a weakness. It's certainly not seen as a strength. Think of the stories in horror and sci-fi movies that feed off fear as the main attraction and intrigue to keep viewers watching.

Some relegate the fear of God to being an Old Testament concept that no longer applies to followers of Jesus under the New Covenant of grace.

After all, when we see Jesus in the Gospels, we see a man who gives Himself as a sacrifice for the salvation of humanity—a gift of perfect love, and who heals people and has concern for the outcasts.

2 different fears

It's common for people to confuse the general idea of fear with the fear of God but they're different. The fear of God is not what is more typically in mind which is a fear of anxiety.

The simplest definition of the fear of God is reverence. But the fear of God, as expressed in several places in the Bible, speaks of respect, awe, holiness, and so much more. Similar phrases are found throughout the Bible, such as godly fear or the fear of the Lord, probably more than you might think. 

In these verses in Proverbs, the fear of God is "a fountain of life," and a place of refuge and strong confidence. The fear of God as a fountain of life is based in relationship with God and a personal response to His sovereignty as Almighty God.

The "strong confidence" comes from a trust in God because of who He is—much like a young child who looks up to and trusts in the strength of a parent. How many times has a child said something like, "My dad is bigger and stronger than your dad!"

Many times in Scripture, the Lord is described as a place of refuge. This is not an actual physical place of security but a sense of safety and rest based on a trusting relationship with God. God is sovereign, He rules over all and is greater than all and He can always be trusted.

How can the fear of God be a "fountain of life?"

God is the Creator and Originator of all life. When a person has a worshipful awe and respect of God, they tap into the One who truly holds our life in His hands, as the children's song goes.

Here is something Jesus said about fearing God and anxious fear—

Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell.
“Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s permission. Every hair on your head has been counted. Don’t be afraid! You are worth more than many sparrows. (Matt 10:28-31 GW)

Jesus declares that the fear of God is stronger and more valuable than the anxious fear we may have of others. So, the fear of God—reverence for God—is a counter to anxious fear.

This is what the apostle John refers to when he says—

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (1 John 4:18)

One last thought on the fear of God as a fountain of life—the book of Proverbs begins with this—

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. (Prov 1:7 GW)

The fear of God—or the fear of the Lord—is a loving awe and respect for Him—a perfect love that pushes out anxious fear when we choose to trust in the Lord.

(see below for more on the fear of God)

Reflection—

Which do you choose to rule over your heart and life? Anxious fear or the fear of God? Jesus declares that the fear of God is stronger and more valuable than the anxious fear we may have of others.

Prayer Focus—

If anxious fear seems to have a strong grip in your life, consciously and prayerfully remind yourself of God's greatness, His sovereignty over all, and His perfect love. Look up all the references to the fear of God (fear of the Lord) and consider these truths as you pray and entrust your life to the Lord.

©Word-Strong_2018


Here are some previous posts related to the fear of God—

The Purpose and Value of Proverbs

Honor and Respect

Taste and See

Would you like a free study guide for Proverbs?

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Honor and Respect

How would you describe respect? Three different types of respect come to mind for me.

Probably the most common one could be termed surface respect—it's shallow as the term implies. It's shown when the boss comes around or when trying to impress someone of importance.

Some respect is born out of sheer fear, dread, or fearfulness. It's an anxious fear that tends to cause people to flee or freeze up.

Curse or Contentment?

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I grew up in a beautiful area along the Pacific Coast of Southern California. I lived in an area of immense wealth, even though our family was not wealthy. We rented, while my friend's families owned their homes.

If I wanted what my friends had, I worked for it. I valued what I had even though it was much less than what my friends enjoyed.

I've lived overseas in SE Asia and seen the great disparity between the "haves and have-nots." It's a big gap. And yet, I've seen greater contentment and happiness among the poor than among the wealthy.

This isn't to say the poor don't long for a life of ease and wealth. They do. And yet, their lives are often filled with more peace and contentment than those they envy. It's ironic.

Scripture

Whoever loves money will never have enough money; Whoever loves wealth will not be satisfied with it. This is also useless. The more wealth people have, the more friends they have to help spend it. So what do people really gain? They gain nothing except to look at their riches. [vss 10-11]

Those who work hard sleep in peace; it is not important if they eat little or much. But rich people worry about their wealth and cannot sleep. I have seen real misery here on earth: Money saved is a curse to its owners. They lose it all in a bad deal and have nothing to give to their children. [vss 12-14]

People come into this world with nothing, and when they die they leave with nothing. In spite of all their hard work, they leave just as they came. This, too, is real misery: They leave just as they came. So what do they gain from chasing the wind? All they get are days full of sadness and sorrow, and they end up sick, defeated, and angry. [vss 15-17]

I have seen what is best for people here on earth. They should eat and drink and enjoy their work, because the life God has given them on earth is short. God gives some people the ability to enjoy the wealth and property he gives them, as well as the ability to accept their state in life and enjoy their work. They do not worry about how short life is, because God keeps them busy with what they love to do. [vss 18-20]

(Ecclesiastes 5:10-20 NCV) [Context– Ecclesiastes 5]

Key phrase— Those who work hard sleep in peace...But rich people worry about their wealth and cannot sleep.

[bctt tweet="Those who work hard sleep in peace...But rich people worry about their wealth and cannot sleep."]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scripture text above as you answer the following questions—

What are two or three specific things said about those who have and love wealth?

Who seems to enjoy rest and sleep more—those with much or those with little? Why?

What is the status of all people at birth and death? What is the pursuit of wealth likened to?

What seems to be the key to enjoying life regardless of their status in this life?

Reflection...

Americans enjoy a high standard of life, especially compared to much of the world. Even our poor, especially those on government assistance, enjoy a higher standard of living compared to most of the world's population.

And yet, with all we possess and have access to, some very simple things seem elusive. Americans spend millions, maybe billions, on supplements and drugs to help them sleep, calm their nerves, and lift their spirit.

Sleeplessness, anxiety and depression are plague-like conditions for millions. Why? As a nation, we seem unable to attain satisfaction or contentment. Perhaps we need to stop chasing after what we don't have, and enjoy what we do have, along with enjoying what we do in daily life.

As mentioned in Ecclesiastes, like a dog who chases its tail, we need to stop "chasing the wind."

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions—

What in particular causes you to lose sleep? Do you realize what causes you anxiety or worry?

When was the last time you had a good night sleep? Do you experience more inner peace or stress?

Have you ever gotten something you longed for only to be disappointed with it?

How do you escape or deal with the cares and desires of your life? Is it in a healthy or unhealthy way?

A Glimpse of Eternity

Photo credit: lightstock.com
Photo credit: lightstock.com

Would you like to live forever? Lots of research goes into extending life and being healthy. What age do you hope to live to? I'm not so sure I want to reach 100. I've seen the adjustments I need to make as I grow older, and it isn't always fun.

But I do long for eternity, just not in this physical body. Life can be hard when we look at it too closely. When we're zeroed in on what we do work-wise, it can be self-defeating. We need a sense of hope beyond the routine of life, or the walls begin to close in on us.

Why do we have this desire to live a long life? Why do we want to know the future? Could it be that eternity is planted in our hearts?

Scripture

What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.[vss 9-11]

So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can.And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.[vss 12-13]

And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God’s purpose is that people should fear him. What is happening now has happened before, and what will happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the same things happen over and over again. [vss 14-15]

I also noticed that under the sun there is evil in the courtroom. Yes, even the courts of law are corrupt! I said to myself, “In due season God will judge everyone, both good and bad, for all their deeds.” [vss 16-17]

(Ecclesiastes 3:9-17 NLT) [Context– Ecclesiastes 3]

Key phrase— He has planted eternity in the human heart

[bctt tweet="God has planted eternity in the human heart"]

Digging Deeper...

How do these verses reflect the continuing tone of this book of wisdom?

What is said that counters this circular and cynical tone? How can these opposing thoughts exist at the same time?

Why would God want people to fear Him? What do you think is meant by this?

What are we told God will do concerning what is good and evil? When will this happen?

Reflection...

The continuing theme of Ecclesiastes is the attempt to answer the question—What's the purpose of life? The tone of the words is mostly cynical, and yet, thoughts of contentment are inserted intermittently.

Many philosophers have lived and died pondering this question of life's purpose, often without resolve. The quest of answers and adventure spurs research and exploration beyond what we know already. And yet, the cycles and seasons of life continue on and on.

A number of years ago, a missionary wrote a book based on research into the culture, beliefs, and history of people groups spread across the globe. He found recurring themes of experience and visions of expectations. He observed that, indeed, God planted eternity in the hearts of humanity.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

Are you able to see God's beauty in your life, the life of others, and the world around you?

Do you find contentment in simple ways to help you navigate life's routines and difficulties?

Do you have a longing for the truth and a sense of hope? If not, do you know where to turn to get these?

How can respect and awe for God help us handle the anxieties and doubts that rise up in our hearts and minds?