Originally published Monday, 30 June 2014.
Have you ever answered the oft asked question, "If there is one thing you could change about yourself, what would it be?" Often, those with curly hair might say they wish they had straight hair or vice versa. Or people might say they wish they were taller, shorter, more athletic, more artistic, etc. My answer to that question has always centered on my quiet and introverted personality. As a minority in a world of people who thrive and are energized in social settings, an introvert like myself is often overwhelmed and fatigued after social situations.
This part of myself was stretched thin over the weekend when I attended TGC's Women's Conference in Orlando. Being around thousands of women, meeting lots of new people, and having to constantly make small talk, pushed me to the limit of capacity. At certain points I felt incredibly overwhelmed and tears burned my eyes. I simply couldn't talk to one more person.
And I berated myself for it.
I had more events lined up to attend and knew there was no way I could get through it. Fear settled in. Overwhelmed, I sat in Paige Benton Brown's plenary on Nehemiah and wondered how I would make it through the weekend.
Fear of the Lord vs. All other fears
Paige's talk was on Nehemiah chapters 5 and 6. She talked about Nehemiah's fear of the Lord and it's motivation for his work in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. This fear of the Lord was foundational for him and it is for us as well. In fact, the fear of the Lord is foundational to everything. It motivates all our thinking and doing. Proverbs says, "The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death" (Proverbs 14:27). And Paige said that the fear of the Lord relieves all other fears.
That's what I needed to hear. I was fearing everything else but the Lord. I was fearing what I couldn't do, my insufficiencies, my inadequacies, my weaknesses. What I wasn't doing was fearing the Lord. When I fear him, all other fears are diminished.
How do I get this fear of the Lord?
Referring to the age old hymn, Amazing Grace, Paige pointed out that it is grace that teaches our heart to fear and by grace are our fears relieved. It is God's grace at work in me through the work of Jesus Christ on my behalf that teaches my heart to fear the Lord. I can't muster up this fear of the Lord on my own. It doesn't come naturally. It's comes with the gift of faith. When the Spirit breathed new life and awakened my dead heart, my blind eyes and deaf ears were open to the things of God. So the same grace that saved me at the cross is the same grace that shows me how to love and fear God.
When it comes to my fears, it's as if Jesus is saying, "Look to me. Don't look at yourself and what you can and can't do. Don't look at those around you and what I called them to do. Don't look at the dangers before you. Look to me. I faced your greatest fears at the cross. I took them on myself so you could be freed to fear nothing and no one else but me. There is nothing left on this earth that can harm you. There is nothing anyone can do to you that will separate you from me. We are united forever. I have covered you with my love and claimed you; you are mine."
God's Sufficiency in Our Fears
When we are called to do something, God doesn't expect us to be competent at it. He just wants us to be willing. Each and every person in Scripture that God used in his redemptive plan were not capable in and of themselves. Some even feared the task given them (Moses, for example). But God was sufficient for them as he is for us.
Paul knew this firsthand in his life. In battling his own weaknesses, he learned that Christ is his strength. He even learned to boast in his weakness. "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Corinthians 12:9).
My fear this past weekend was misplaced. Instead of fearing the Lord which leads to wisdom and life, I was fearing my own inadequacies, my circumstances, and my weaknesses. Sitting there, surrounded by 4,000 women, listening to Paige's talk on Nehemiah, I repented of my fears and prayed for greater grace that teaches my heart to fear the Lord.
Reading this, you may not struggle with the same fears as I. Your fears may be different. But the cure is the same. "T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear. And Grace, my fears relieved."