To be a God-fearing woman

‘Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.’ Proverbs 31: 30 (NIV).

Personally, I long to please God and be praiseworthy in His eyes, but I’ve always struggled with this idea of fearing Him. This is probably because I do not have the best frame of reference around the word ‘fear’. My understanding of fear has mostly been informed by our cultural context where as far as I know, genuine love and fear don’t usually coexist within healthy relationships. For many women in particular, abuse begins because of love and fear coexisting in a relationship. Along with many other Cup of Faith users, I also live in a country with one of the highest crime rates in the world, particularly when it comes to violence against women. While I personally have not had to struggle through the trauma of either abuse or violence like so many women including my sisters in Christ, I do at times live in fear of it.

On a different scale, fear is also associated with authority, and this is something I also personally relate to. Growing up I experienced incidences when authority was exercised in an oppressive manner that led to feelings of shame and belittlement; faces of sternness, disapproval or disdain come to mind when I think of people who had authority over me, and many of those faces to varying degrees led to a general fear of people and a desperate need to feel validated.

Of course, the perfect antidote to the examples of fear described above, is faith. Faith that God is with us in even the darkest and most traumatic of moments. Faith that God loves us unconditionally. Faith that He is in control. Faith that He has prepared a place for us with Him and therefore no matter what happens to us physically or emotionally in this world, He holds us gently and lovingly in the palm of His hand.

But how is the God who loves and protects us also an entity that should be feared? How does the fear of God replace fear of man without it denoting negative associations? As always, it starts with what God says in His Word. I started with a verse from Proverbs, but there are many more verses like this where we are told that we should be God-fearing, yet simultaneously, we are also told to not be afraid, ‘But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”’ (NIV Matthew 14: 27).

God’s Balanced Attributes

While many may see this as a contradiction along with the general tension between the God of the Old Testament and the New Testament, it may be an opportunity for us to look at it as an example of God’s beautiful contrast which makes Him perfect. The so-called-contradictions of God is what I personally love most about Him. Who else can contain the maximum flavour of every good ingredient without overpowering one over the other, except the Creator of the Universe? God is both perfectly powerful and a bringer of justice, ‘The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness.’ (Romans 1:18) as well as a God who is compassionate, ‘Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion’ (NIV Isaiah 30:18) and patient, ‘The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’ (NIV 2 Peter 3:9) He loves us fiercely and is commanding, ‘Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God’. (NIV Exodus 34:14), but He is also soothing, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (NIV Matthew 11:29)

The contrasts I’ve briefly touched on above give us a clue as to why fearing God is different from the things that we fear in the world. Firstly, He does not intend to harm us. He intends to punish and eradicate sin which indeed will be harmful to the sin and those that hold to sin instead of letting go through repentance. But this doesn’t make Him cold and cruel. It just means that He will do what no human can do; that is to make the world perfect and “un-harmful” because He knows the root cause-effect to every massive problem down to the minuscule detail which always starts in sin. Those minuscule details include our own individual mistakes driven by selfish agendas that in the greater scheme of things, contribute to a less than perfect, therefore harmful world. To fix this, the wrongs need to be eradicated, which means the wrong doers who refuse to accept His grace and salvation need to be eradicated.

Secondly, He is perfect, and therefore any harm inflicted by God will be just and fair. Nothing less. Because He is all-knowing.

What also distinguishes God from the things we fear in this world, is that God has ultimate control over us and everything. While the things we fear in this world can harm us in this life either physically or emotionally, they have no eternal impact on our well-being. But God does. Not because He wants to punish us and therefore harm us eternally, but because we choose to remain in the path of eternal destruction which is unwittingly awaiting God’s wrath. When we view things with an eternal lens, we see that God is far more powerful than anything we may fear in the world and therefore He should certainly be feared far above anything else.

Faith and Reality

When I look at these reasons to fear God, I realise that those reasons come down to faith and belief. For you need to first believe in God to fear Him, and then you need to believe that He is ultimately the one in charge of your destiny. We then need to realise and believe, that condemnation is a possible destiny for us. Ouch. This one is where many decide they don’t want to believe in the possibility that they will be condemned and so they decide that they don’t want to believe in a God that would inflict that condemnation. They therefore find whatever proof they can to comfort themselves that the God of the bible does not exist. However, if there is no condemnation for our sins, then there is also no condemnation for the worst of the world’s sins: human trafficking, genocide, sexual violence, femicide, child pornography, corruption, etc.

I find weather forecasts help me understand the biggest problem when choosing to doubt over faith in God. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find weather apps forecast completely different conditions to one another, or the weather goes against all forecasts altogether even though trained meteorologists have looked at all of the evidence. But though a forecast may say it is going to be sunny and fine, choosing to believe the forecast and making plans around sunny and fine weather won’t stop bad weather from coming. If a storm is coming, it is coming, whether you believe it or you don’t.

But God loves us and takes pity on us because He knows we can’t help ourselves due to being less than perfect. He has therefore given us a way to remove ourselves from the path of destruction. Himself. Jesus. The cross. To both pay for and forgive all our selfish agendas and sins that contribute towards the harmful world. If we accept this, then the reasons to fear Him are also a reason for us to celebrate because it means that whatever injustice or upside-down ways of the world that seemingly persist and have victory and cause harm to so many, will ultimately be put to right again.

This is how love and fear coexist. I fear God because I know He has the ultimate power to condemn me. I love Him because He doesn’t want to and has not only made a way for me to remove myself from the path of destruction, but if I accept His offer of salvation, He sees me as perfect and unblemished.

God’s wrath

Fear of God is not being afraid, it’s not cowering in a corner, walking on eggshells or living imprisoned unable to go outside. It is a deep awe and reverence that empowers us to boldly walk through the world knowing that we are under the wing of the one who is to be feared more than anything else in the world. Every monster we fear – both the figurative and the literal, both the imaginary and the real – will be crushed by God’s wrath and that will be a terrifying thing to behold, but one that we should long for if we are outraged by some of the world’s sins that I mentioned. Remembering that God’s wrath is for these things that outrage us, then we should welcome it, but knowing that every big sin has a beginning in small sin, and therefore the small sins need to be destroyed too. Hence, why we need to make sure we are on His side when the time comes. The only way to do this, is to be made perfect by accepting His salvation through the name of Jesus.

The fact that He wants to make a perfect world that only contains love, laughter, celebration, and all things beautiful by eradicating everything that doesn’t lead to this, should make us want to believe Him, worship Him and what’s more, be thankful that He is someone to be feared. Because if He can’t eradicate sin through His wrath, then there is no justice or hope. In this way, the reason to fear God, is the exact reason why we have a reason to hope.

I therefore want to be a God-fearing woman, because to be a God-fearing woman, is to be a woman with hope.

Father God, I am grateful that you are a God to be feared. Thank you for your mercy and grace that you have offered through your son Jesus Christ. Please help me to always remember who you are and to appreciate the great eternal hope I have as your daughter. Thank you for making me a God-fearing woman and help me always to remain so. Amen.

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