We are all tempted to fear. Christina Fox’s hope with this book is that if Christians are given a greater fear, it will shrink all other fears we encounter. I didn’t really know the extent of Satan’s tool of fear until I had my daughter. Then it became a fight. The depth of love I felt for her seemed to also be accompanied by a new depth (possibility) of fear. To borrow Christina’s words, “In the face of fear, we often feel helpless. I don’t know about you, but I hate that feeling.” Same, girl. Same.
Below are a few of impactful passages from her book.
While fear is a normal emotional response to life in a fallen world, when it grips our heart, we turn our gaze away from God and to the circumstances around us. We focus on the problem instead of the One who rules over all things. We place our trust not in God to help and rescue us but in things, methods, or even ourselves. This is idolatry.
Consider all the frightening things our children face when they walk out the front door each morning: bullying and school violence, online predators, school systems that want to shape their minds, and a post-truth culture seeking to influence them at every turn. It’s hard not to fear such a world. It’s hard not to want to run and hide. Yet such fear makes the world bigger and stronger than the God who holds the world in the palm of His hands. Responses like these eventually fail us. Whether we try to control our fears, freeze, or run away from them, they still linger, mocking us. They still rule over us. They still keep us looking at what we fear rather than trusting the Lord.
Ed Welch says that the fear of man sees “people as ‘bigger’ (that is, more powerful and significant) than God, and, out of the fear that creates in us, we give other people the power and right to tell us what to feel, think, and do.”
Future fear is worried about whether there will be enough in the days to come: enough money, enough food, enough time, enough wisdom, enough strength. We fear future losses and failures. We fear not being prepared or knowing what to do in a situation. We fear the unknown. As mentioned earlier, Jesus told us not to worry about not having enough because our heavenly Father provides for all our needs: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34). As John Calvin wrote, “Believers ought to rely on God’s fatherly care, to expect that he will bestow upon them whatever they feel to be necessary, and not to torment themselves by unnecessary anxiety.”
In fearing the Lord, we would remind our heart that God owns all things. All we have comes from His generous hand. He is Jehovah Jireh, our provider. He promises to meet all our needs. We would remember all the times He provided for us in the past. Above all, we would dwell on His generous provision of grace for us in Christ. The more we dwell on who God is and what He has done, our fears lose their grip on us, for we’ll see God as greater.
C. H. Spurgeon said that fearing the Lord is shorthand for “expressing real faith, hope, love, holiness of living, and every grace which makes up true godliness.”
We know how powerful and mighty and holy God is. We know that the life of everyone on earth is under His control. He is mightier than the storm in the illustration. Yet by His grace He has rescued us from sin and death through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. He shelters us in the shadow of His wings. We are protected from His judgment. The fear of the Lord is our response to being in that place of safety and of knowing we are loved.
The fear of the Lord is not like a formula you apply to your fearful situations; it’s not a magic potion. Nor is it like the responses well-meaning friends might give when they say something like, “You just need more faith, then you’ll no longer be afraid.” Fearing the Lord doesn’t mean you will never again feel any fearful emotions in the face of troubling circumstances. Rather, the fear of the Lord is the posture of your heart in the face of life’s fearful situations. It’s realizing that even when you stand before something fearful, there is One greater who stands beside you. It is trusting, depending, loving, worshiping, adoring, obeying, and honoring God above all else—even when what you face seems too hard and too frightening. It also means your lesser fears won’t rule you and direct your life; instead, you’ll hand them over to the One who rules over all.
To grow in a holy fear of God, we need to appropriate the truths of the gospel to our lives each day. The gospel story is one we need to tell ourselves over and over.
Make it a daily habit to ask yourself, What does the gospel have to say about __? Whatever the circumstance, whatever the occasion, look to the gospel and remind yourself of who Christ is and what He has done.
At the heart of godly fear is humility. A God-fearer knows she is dependent on God for all things. She knows her wayward heart and the depths of her depravity. She understands the gospel of grace and that she comes to God empty-handed. She doesn’t trust in her own works or knowledge or anything inherent in her; rather, she rests in the finished work of Christ for her salvation.
We obey those we fear. We know this all too well with our lesser fears. If we fear what other people think, we will obey that fear, doing whatever we can to earn the approval of others. We will go out of our way to not upset others. We will strive to placate and please. If we fear the future, we will center our lives on controlling what we fear might happen. We may worship that control by seeking solutions to what we fear and trusting in them as our savior. Whatever it is that we fear requires our obedience. That’s why we often feel ruled and led by our lesser fears. But God calls us to obey Him.
When our lesser fears rule us, they pull us away from trusting the Lord. We find ourselves fretting over the “what-ifs” of life… But as we grow in the fear of the Lord, our hearts yield a harvest of trust. We find ourselves looking ahead to the future with expectation and anticipation, wondering what our great God has in store for us. We know that whatever it is, it will be for our good. We hold our own plans loosely, trusting in God’s sovereign plan. We don’t agonize over decisions, wondering whether the choice we make is in line with God’s will, for we know His moral law and desire to do only that which glorifies Him. Rather than waiting for a neon sign or an open door that smacks us in the face, we move forward with faith, knowing God is walking beside us.