Making Our Greatest Fear Our Greatest Strength

What is your greatest fear? Whether you’ve been asked this question directly or not you have certainly asked it of yourself. Or maybe you refuse to ask it because, well, you fear the answer. Is it heights? Is it spiders? Is it the flu? Is it death?

I am not a big fan of any of those, but none of those is my biggest fear. They’re not even close, really. My biggest fear is people, more specifically people’s opinions. I fear what people think, how they perceive me.

I am at all uncommon in this. Most of us fear people more than anything. The only reason they don’t admit it is because . . . they fear people. As in all other fears we avoid expressing or discussing it because doing so brings us face to face with it. We act as if fear has no power over us if we can pretend it doesn’t exist, but by doing so we are actually being guided by fear

We are motivated, energized, and paralyzed, aggravated, and enervated by others’ perceptions of us. We wear what we wear, write what we write, and say what we say because of what others think. We even think what we think because of other people. The power of popular opinion is the greatest man-made force on earth.

We are slaves to people because we are terrified of them. We are all slaves to each other because everyone is afraid. Each of us resents and admires those around us, and it’s like a duel with much repositioning, parrying, and ducking. We want to be ourselves yet we want to please others, so we are bound.

In this reality I see some of what it means to fear the Lord. “Fear the Lord” is a challenging phrase to wrap our minds around because fear, as we know it, isn’t a good or happy thing.

But if we feared God like we fear people we would wear what we wear, write what we write, say what we say, even think what we think out of God-fear. We would find the duel to be a dance with Him in the lead. Yes, we would change to please Him, but with no residual resentment or fear of condemnation. Instead of feeling like we must change who we are to please Him we would find who we are changing as we please Him and becoming more of who we want to be.

And that would be a good and happy thing. It would be good and happy because, unlike people, God isn’t afraid of us. He has no insecurities with which to respond to ours. He isn’t enslaved by our opinions of him. To fear the Lord is to turn our greatest fear toward the One who we can be certain feels no compulsion to respond in a hurtful way. God has no fear of man, and so we can safely fear Him.

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Barnabas Piper
Barnabas works in social media and content marketing for Lifeway Christian Resources. He is the author of The Pastor's Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity (David C. Cook, July 2014). Barnabas and his wife live in the Nashville area with their two daughters. Follow him on Twitter @BarnabasPiper.