Any biology textbook can tell us that fear brings a lot of energy. In the face of threats (or perceived threats), adrenaline courses through our veins and helps keep us focused and alert. Right now, it is easy to feel energized by fear. There’s fear of the economy crashing. Fear of infection, suffering, death. Fear of uncertainty. On a far more benign level, for those of us who will be home with our kids for the next few weeks, fear of the tedium, the likelihood of fighting and impatience and the worst versions of ourselves coming out.
Fear Changes Our Behavior
Fear changes our behavior. What we fear determines how we live. If I’m afraid of upsetting my kids, I let them get their way even if I know it isn’t best for them. If I’m afraid that we will get sick, I hoard essential goods rather than sharing them with others. If I’m afraid that I will lose my job, I’ll compete harder for it and worry more about it.
Psalm 128 begins with the words, “Happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways.” Two things stood out to me here.
One, the things I fear bring misery, but fearing the Lord brings happiness.
Two, fearing the Lord and walking in the way of the Lord are one and the same. Just as fearing death, fearing financial ruin, fearing discord in our families changes the way we behave, the way we “walk” through life, so, too, fearing God affects every step we take.
Fearing the Lord
Fearing the Lord is different than fearing anything in the human realm. Fearing the Lord doesn’t bring selfishness, worry, and bad parenting. It brings happiness. It leads to behavior in step with who God is: love, peace, gentleness, faithfulness…
Fearing the Lord is walking in the way of the Lord.
Fearing the Lord is not cowering in terror of a Mighty God.
Fearing the Lord is knowing the God who is Love.
Fearing the Lord is loving the Lord.
Fearing the Lord brings the energy to love others, to love God, to love ourselves. It brings the energy to make decisions on behalf of the common good. It brings energy to pray instead of worrying. It brings energy to bless others. My hope and prayer is that in the days and weeks ahead, we will live not in the fear of coronavirus, not in the fear of an erratic stock market, not in the fear of kids at home, and not in the fear of empty shelves at the grocery store.
My hope and prayer is that we will live in the fear of the Lord, that we will walk in the way of love.