Holy love meets holy fear

I have a friend that I’m praying for this morning. He is struggling in his faith. He is struggling with apathy toward the things of God. He wants more but he doesn’t know how to get there. He wants God to light a fire in him. He says he doesn’t really have any besetting sin in his life, any sin that he seems to fall into time after time. He just seems stuck in neutral, he says. Sound familiar? It does for me.

I was in that place recently. It took a fresh encounter with God’s love to show me the meaning of His grace toward me (and you) that drew me to Him and ignited a flame within me to tell others about it. I want to tell everyone about the finished work of the Cross and the true freedom found there. I’ve been posting about it for weeks. You can read more at FaithOnTheRoadAgain.com. But back to my friend…

I have him reading some things, hoping he’ll have a fresh encounter with God’s love, too, but he wrote to me after reading a chapter and he said that he thought he had full, mature understanding of the grace of God. Instead, what he thought he needed was a healthy fear of God. I’m trying to discover what he meant. I just sent him an email asking him, telling him that I’m praying for him. Thirty seconds later (literally!), he sends me one, saying that he’s praying for me! I love how God works!

Anyway, I wonder what “fear of God” means to him. Does he want to be “scared straight”? Does he need “shock therapy”? Or does he need a full revelation of the fullness and awesomeness of God? How do you get to the place of being filled with holy reverence and awe toward God, which would define a “healthy fear of God”?

Could it be that what he and I are talking about are the same things? Could it be that a full revelation of the love and grace of God toward me, you, and the rest of humanity is the same thing as the “fear of God”? Most people would think not, but I’m not so sure this morning.

As I watch the amazing colors of the sunrise this morning, I’m reminded that His mercies are new every morning. That’s what the Bible tells us. I turned to that passage in Lamentations. Its author, the prophet Jeremiah, is grieving over the destruction of his beloved city, Jerusalem. It lies in ruin. Here is what he says:

He has walled me in so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains. Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer. He has barred my way with blocks of stone; he has made my paths crooked. Like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in hiding, he dragged me from the path and mangled me and left me without help. He drew his bow and made me the target for his arrows. He pierced my heart with arrows from his quiver. I became the laughingstock of all my people; they mock me in song all day long. He has filled me with bitter herbs and given me gall to drink. He has broken my teeth with gravel; he has trampled me in the dust. I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.” I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. (Lamentations 3:7-20, NIV)

Sounds like a terrible state to be in. He is so grieved by his situation (the situation of the exiled Jews and their beloved city) that it seems like he can’t even pray, or that God is simply not listening. But then something changes:

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: BECAUSE OF THE LORD’s GREAT LOVE, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:21-26, NIV, MY EMPHASIS)

Who are we, that God is mindful of us? That’s what David said when he wrote the Psalms. That’s what Jeremiah is pondering here. More than that, God loves us so much that, despite our failings… our pride… our sin… our apathy… He doesn’t consume us. Sounds like a holy fear of the Lord.

He is compassionate. So compassionate, in fact, that He sent His Son to take our place. We should bear that penalty. We should be punished. God’s love saves us.

Holy love meets holy fear.

I’m praying.

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