I was bullied in middle school. I tried so hard to get the kids in my 7th grade class to like me and accept me. I did things that made them laugh in some desperate attempt to be a part of something, anything. The bullying was hurtful and challenging, especially at that age. It charted the course of how to live my life throughout high school and into college. I did many different things and hung out with many different types of people, looking for some connection to others. In order to fill my own needs and desires to be worth something, I dated girls who had problems so that I could try to “fix them.” I spent absurd amounts of money on clothes so that I would be seen as someone who “looked cool.” This was a sincere but misguided attempt to find fulfillment and escape judgment.
I feared the world. I sought the world. I wanted the acceptance of the world.
But then God moved, and my heart changed.
He used a broken, dating relationship and a faithful disciple to call me. I was bitter and angry at religion because it had been used in the past to hurt those who called me a friend. I wanted nothing to do with God because of how cultural Christianity had twisted the truth of the Gospel. But simple love, unadorned and free of the world’s chains, worked in me.
All of this introduces the depth by which I struggle with fear. I have sought and desired for years to escape it - to be strengthened and empowered to overcome the fears I face in sharing my faith, in being judged by others for what I believe, and in living my life in a gospel-centered way, often to the exasperation of the world.
God has led me to the Psalms of David and the Proverbs of Solomon over the past few months. The word fear is seen often in these scriptures. The context for the word may differ, but it is sometimes used to describe something that we (the world) largely do not associate with fear: reverence.
Reverence is a translated definition of the Hebrew word “Yirah.” The verse that challenged me to seek out this meaning was Proverbs 9:10 -
”The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
I do not believe that Solomon wrote this as fear in the way we normally perceive it (scared, frightened, etc.). Rather, replace fear with reverence and it begins to make more sense. If we begin to look to God in reverence, in awe and wonder, and acknowledge His fullness and omnipotence, then perhaps we would see our relationship with the Father differently. Perhaps, it would transform how we live life as a follower of Christ and with others (both believing and not).
I continued with a hope to find some other passages that described the imagery necessary to encapsulate such reverence. I have found no better excerpts than the two passages below. I encourage you to read both now before continuing. It may help to take some time to process through each piece, because upon reflection of these words, it made me consider the profound implications of these writings.
What spoke to you about these passages? Were you intimidated by the intimate knowledge that our God possesses about each of us? Were you in awe of the power that Jesus wields and how He transcends all time and creation? Did you consider your past posture and view of the trinity, and do these scriptures drive you to a more reverent state of worship and praise?
So, what is the wisdom and knowledge that is spoken of in Proverbs 9:10? After reading these passages above, I think it is clear that the unattainable understanding of the power and majesty of the Father and the Son should move us to sincere humility and make us drop to our knees in worship.
There is absolutely no room for fear of the world when compared to the words written about God.
Even our own language cannot bring an accurate or acceptable description of Him, because we are finite beings trying to describe an infinite Lord and Savior. Yet, we know our own stories. We know how the Gospel has radically changed us; how it has redirected our lives and called us, and is still calling us, to completely let go of the world, because Jesus has called us out of the world (John 15:19).
One last verse has resonated deeply with me over the past few months. It was shared with me by a friend who has demonstrated an understanding of the vast and desperate need for submission to God through Godly fear.
“For Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief leads to death.” - 2 Corinthians 7:10
So honestly ask yourself this question: “Whom shall I fear?” There is no denying that there is severe suffering and fears in this world which sometimes define us and often painfully afflict us mentally, physically, and spiritually. How then do we submit these to Him; how can some of these things be reconciled as part of His plan? God has done a work in each of us. He knows and understands every little detail and there is a purpose behind everything He does. He has power over all brokenness, sin, pain, and illness. And whatever challenges we face, I promise you, He is greater.
Let us recall His perfection and His love as we begin to consider His absolute dominion over these very real, yet incredibly hard fears, sufferings, and emotions. Only through submission and reverence to God can we begin to truly demonstrate the love of Christ to one another. For we all desperately need each other, now more than ever.