I have been reflecting on fear this week. Partly, because we started a new series at church in Proverbs and the first week addressed this topic, but also because I feel like the Lord has been exposing unhealthy fear and anxiety in my heart over the past couple years.
I have never considered myself a “fearful” or “anxious” person but as the daily work of husbanding, fathering, church planting, pastoring, and creating art have played out over the past five years, I have come to understand that I some unhealthy fear in my life.
Here is what I mean. This is not a fear of the dark or fear of some sort of impending doom. No, this fear hangs out beneath the surface yet masquerades daily as a desire to control my surroundings. An unhealthy fear of my circumstances and the desire to control them takes the place of trusting the Lord, who is the only one I should be fearing. Here’s how that plays out. I don’t wait for his direction enough. I don’t rest in provision enough. I spend very little time in the river of peace that he offers. I create my own list of duties to fulfill and stamp his name on them. I often trust in my own ability to provide for my family and my church. I spend more time than I like to admit playing drinking from wells that boast comfort and end up shallow and dissatisfying (hobbies, fitness, Netflix, spiritual books, social media, the next big church project, the next song, home improvement, vacations, food, etc.) But praise God! He is not leaving me here. He is not allowing me to be satisfied with the streams. He is offering me his fountain of life! I am hearing him say, more clearly than ever, “come and find rest in me.”
“The Fear of the Lord is a fountain of Life, turning people away from the snares of death.”
Proverbs 14:27 is a starting ground to combatting unhealthy fear. It defines what fear should look like. It aims our hearts in a healthy direction. It promises life and protects us from death.
So, what should healthy fear look like? I love how Oklahoma pastor, Bryan Padgett illustrated this recently as he spoke about Tornadoes. I’ll recap it for you. For the most part, people who live in states where tornadoes occur frequently have a healthy fear of them. They understand their destructive power, but they also understand their boundaries and limits. They listen to the advice and warnings of expert meteorologists who have devoted their lives to studying the storms that produce them. They trust the expert’s guidance. They usually have a plan in place in case they cross paths with one. Therefore, they are not gripped by an unhealthy, anxiety-ridden fear, rather their hearts are directed by reverence, wisdom, and knowledge (healthy fear) of the tornado. People who do not live in these states, or spend time listening to expert meteorologists tend to be terrified by these storms. They lack wisdom and knowledge about how to stay safe should they find themselves in the path of a tornado. This often leads people to frantic and unsafe reactions.
“What if we had a life-plan in place that was based on reverence, wisdom, and knowledge of God?”
Why is it that we often find ourselves looking to every other source of information about a problem we are facing besides God? We frantically try to track down information from shallow sources on any given problem when we are facing forgetting that we have the fountain of life as our source. What if we trusted his expert advice found in scripture that has stood the test of time? What if we had a life-plan in place that was based on reverence, wisdom, and knowledge of God? After all, isn’t God to be feared above all else? He is more powerful than any twister in the midwest. With a word, he spoke the planets and stars into existence. He formed us out of dust. At his command, the heavens pour forth rain, hail, snow, and winds in every direction. He brought down great cities who rebelled and raised up cities that would honor his name. He crushed his Son on the cross for our sake and then raised him up from the dead that we would join him in peace for all eternity (escaping the snares of death).
True rest lies in a healthy fear of the Lord. I am learning to trust this more and more each day. It doesn’t look like to do lists or filling my calendar with more God activities. It looks like spending time with him. Lot’s of time with him. Getting to know his ways, his character, his words. And when unhealthy fear dons the mask of control in my heart, I remember that healthy fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, leading me away from the snares of death.
Article and song written by Chris Clark who serves as the Worship and Arts Pastor at Redemption Church.