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Should We Be Afraid of God? Does God Want Us to Fear Him?

We know God to be our Heavenly Father who desires all things good for us. Why then should we “fear” him and is it right for us to do so? Shouldn’t we do things out of love instead of because we “fear God”?

In fact, one of the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit is known as the “fear of the Lord”. King Solomon also proudly proclaimed that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).

To answer this profound question, we need to first understand the difference between servile fear and filial fear.

The Right Kind of Fear

Fear in itself is not a bad things, and in fact it is an essential part of our lives that forms a part of our defense mechanism. It is only when we carry undue fear that is illogical and crippling were it becomes a hindrance to us.

When we sense impending danger, we grow fearful and do our best to avoid it thus saving ourselves from potential harm. Fear keeps us from pursuing things that may be harmful to us and allows us to develop the respect for others.

There is a big difference between being afraid (a state of unjustified terror) and having fear of God. Many people often have the misconception that “fear of the Lord” means to be afraid of the wrath of God. In actual fact, we are called not to cower before God who loves us deeply, but rather to reflect an intimate relationship of love, reverence and trust with God.

Servile Fear: This pertains to the dread of punishment. It is the fear one would experience when considering the consequences of their actions, especially those against the wishes or commandments of a higher power. At its core, servile fear is born from recognizing one’s own inadequacies and limitations in comparison to God’s might.

Filial Fear: Rooted in the Latin term for ‘son’ or ‘daughter,’ filial fear is about the respect and reverence one has for a father or parental figure. Rather than fearing retribution, filial fear is centered around a desire to live up to the expectations and wishes of one’s creator, much like a child wanting to make their parent proud.

Whilst servile fear may lead people to God because of the fear of repercussions and punishment, it is the filial fear that actually strengthens our bonds with Him and allow us to claim His promises in our lives.

Do Not Be Afraid

Fun fact: The words “Do not be afraid” have appeared in the bible 365 times! That’s akin to God speaking to us in reassurance every day of the year! As God has constantly assured us in His word, His presence should not fill us with terror but instead seek to embrace Him in a deep and powerful connection for He wishes to share His love with us.

It was never God’s intention for us to be scared of him, and being “afraid” of Him may actually do more harm then good by pushing us away from Him or influencing our actions simply because we are afraid of divine retribution. Instead of picturing God as a disciplinarian to whom we have to answer to, think of Him as the loving Father which we must strive to please each day because of our love for Him.

So What Does “Fear of the Lord” Truly Mean?

Fear of the Lord, instead, is the gift of the Holy Spirit through whom we are reminded of how small we are before God and of his love and that our good lies in humble, respectful and trusting self-abandonment into his hands. This is fear of the Lord: abandonment in the goodness of our Father who loves us so much.

– Pope Francis on “Fear of the Lord”

One of the most captivating aspects of “fear of the Lord” is the transformation it invokes. When individuals embrace this gift, they’re not coerced into submission out of dread. Instead they willingly surrender to God’s will, not because they’re commanded to but out of sheer love and reverence. This form of obedience is filled with respect and honor, showcasing the beauty of a soul in harmony with its creator.

For Christians, understanding God’s boundless love and mercy is pivotal. Such fear is driven not by the trepidation of consequences but by an earnest desire to bask in God’s love and to please Him. It’s a relationship built on profound respect, trust, and love. Thus, for Christians, fearing God (in a filial sense) eradicates the need for fearing Him (in a servile context).

Courage & Conviction

When we have truly accepted God, we shall be filled with courage and conviction instead of terror. “Fear of the Lord” isn’t about cowering before His presence, but for us to stand tall and embrace the undeniable love of God.

When one truly understands and feels this form of fear, they’re fortified with a resilience that’s anchored in God’s love. Challenges become manageable, and adversities transform into opportunities for growth and learning.

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