The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the Proverbs tell us, and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of the end of all other fears. For us as sons of God, to fear God means to humbly trust Him and helplessly tremble before Him with reverence and awe, love and gratitude (Ps. 147:11; 2 Cor. 7:15; Heb. 12:28). Although most fear is deadly, the fear of the Lord is life. The fears we experience in this life are countless and complex. And while we have chosen to address seven deadly fears, there are innumerably more that each of us experience every day of our lives. For it’s not only that we experience fears from things outside of us, but that we experience fears from things within us, as Martin Luther admitted: “I more fear what is within me than what comes from without.”
Fear often takes the form of anxiety when we worry about things that might happen to us, but it also takes the form of anxiety when we worry about things that have already happened to us. We fear not only the fiery darts that come from the hand of our Enemy, but we fear the fiery darts our hearts sometimes shoot at themselves. What’s more, we sometimes worry about our proclivity to worry, and we find ourselves fearing our worst fears coming true. We fear and we worry when we try to play God and act as if we are sovereignly in control of our lives. It’s only when we trust God and daily recognize and surrender to His sovereign control that we know we are rightly fearing God as the sovereign God He is.
Whenever I encounter someone who claims not ever to worry about anything or who claims not to have any fears, I conclude one of three things: they are lying, they are self-deceived, or they have grown so callous and complacent to their own hearts that they don’t care about anything or anyone and are, thus, blindly self-absorbed. The believer is one who has been rescued and redeemed, justified and pardoned by God, and he is one who still has indwelling sin, and, thus, fear and anxiety. Yet, whereas the unbeliever is riddled with self-sustaining and self-medicating fears and anxieties, the believer takes all his fears and anxieties to the One whose perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). As God’s adopted sons, God has sovereignly humbled us and has graciously made our hearts to fear Him so that all our other fears might be no more, as John Newton so beautifully penned in his hymn “Amazing Grace”: “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved; how precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.” However, we cannot rightly fear God if we don’t know God, and so the more we know the God of the Bible, the more we are able to rightly fear the holy and gracious God who fearfully and wonderfully made us to live coram Deo, before His face forever.