25 Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, 26 for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared.
– Proverbs 3:25-26
At our core, because fear is natural to our being, we tend to mis-read passages like Proverbs 3:25-26.
Yes, we are commanded to have no fear (v25). But this in no way implies bravado. We are to acknowledge that, in the natural, there are scary things in the world. COVID19 is just the latest in a long line. Yes, the Lord is at our side (v26). But this in no way eliminates the many threats to our existence. Let us therefore not make the mistake of slipping past verse 25 in order to rest in verse 26: Have no fear…for the Lord will be at your side. To do so would imply that we are impervious to those things that inflame fearfulness, and that is just not true.
So what then is the author trying to tell us in these two verses? The author is telling us that the Lord being with us means we can now face those things that we fear and face them well. Therefore, have no fear! But now how does that work? Part of the answer could be found in how we define the word fear.
In the Bible, the word fear is generally used one of two ways. There’s the word fear that has to do with torment and being scared. The emphasis on this meaning implies a total self-absorption to the point of being frozen in self-consciousness. It is a fear that is consumed with self. That is the meaning that usually comes to mind when we come across the word fear.
But there is another usage in the Bible for the word fear, and it sits in direct opposition to the first meaning. Over in Proverbs 28:14 we see an example of this second meaning where the author writes: Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always…” In other words, there is a fear that doesn’t bring torment but rather it brings blessing and joy. But the blessing and joy is found in the fear of the Lord.
Now on the surface, that may sound strange or illogical. But if you lean into what the author of Proverbs is telling us, you’ll understand what is being written. You see, when the Bible writes about the fear of the Lord, it is using a word to describe an inner condition of awe and amazement and wonder at the magnitude of the love and the power and the greatness of God. You could almost translate Proverbs 28:14 this way: Blessed is the one who ‘stands in awe and wonder’ of the Lord always. Notice how this meaning is opposite of the first. It is also completely devoid of self and instead the focus is on God. Therein also lies the answer to how we can now begin to face those things that scare us. When we are so awed by the greatness of God’s grace, when our hearts respond and leap in wonder and amazement at all that He has done, is doing, and will yet do in our lives, when we are responding to God’s love, instead of being focused on ourselves, there will be nothing left that can torment us.
Prayer: God of all mercy, during these uncertain days, may we have no fear. May we continually be reminded of your goodness, your love for us, & your amazing grace. May we stand in awe of You!
Dr. Dave Lescalleet serves as the Director Chaplaincy for PruittHealth.