Black as blindness, the night loomed amongst the evergreen groves that surrounded me. I knew cougars and bears were out there, and though I had never seen any, the possibility that I might was enough to make my stomach fly into my throat.

I spent one summer working at a camp, and my residence was removed from the main site. So each night for about two months, I had to make my way down a long, dark, path to where I lived. And each night, I was terrified.

What is fear, exactly? It’s quite the distressing feeling. It means you believe — or at least think there’s a possibility — that something horrible will happen.

So why does the Bible say, over and over again, to “fear the Lord”? What does that even mean? Is God dangerous, is he going to harm you?

Well, yes and no. How’s that for clear?

The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview says it this way:

“In the Old Testament, the phrase ‘the fear of God’ is often used in the sense of a genuine faith which is characterized by these things: obedience to God’s Law (Deuteronomy 5:29 and Ecclesiastes 12:13), by listening to his voice (1 Samuel 12:14), and by learning his ways (Psalm 86:11).”

But we also read in the Bible about the kind of fear I had when I was at camp. Actually, it’s way more intense than that. It’s a kind of holy terror. Think about when Moses saw the burning bush, or when Isaiah encountered the Lord in a vision, or John in his revelation. They were all scared senseless. Moses couldn’t even look at the bush, Isaiah was overcome by his own flawed humanity, John fell down as if he was dead. They were terrified.

In his Basic Series, Francis Chan says, “The reality is, whoever you are, the moment you see God, you are going to fear him. We all will.”

God is so much bigger than our minds can even comprehend. Maybe that’s why the Old Testament says a number of times, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The moment we see the holiness of God and his absolute perfection, we come face-to-face with our own absolute imperfection. We see, like Isaiah, how much we are lacking, how ruined we are.

The beautiful thing about fearing God is that he forgives us so we can be in his presence. He says to us, “Don’t fear!” He wants us to understand his power, so that we realize it’s not all about us. It’s about him. When we view God this way, we understand how amazing it is that he wants us to be part of what he’s doing in this world, and that he wants to know us personally. And all we have to do is say yes.

So, as Francis Chan says, let’s start taking him more seriously and realize there’s nothing else to fear.

Because if God is for us, who can be against us?

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Photo Credit: Jonatán Becerra