What Does it Mean to Fear God?

What has been one of your most frightful moments? For me, it was on top of a mountain in Colorado. I had gone on a skiing trip with a few friends and their family. It wasn’t the first time and I would consider myself decent at snowboarding. In years past I may have been out of my comfort zone, but never felt afraid of a slope I was taken on. All of that changed on this trip.

It wasn’t too far into the trip and we decided to head to the top to get in some good powder and a few runs that had not been over skied. At first I thought this would be just fine. Again, I had never had a reason to doubt my ability. We made our way to the top lift. We were so high on the mountain that they didn’t use the normal lift I was used to riding. It was a bar you had to hold onto as it pulled you up. It took me a couple of tries and it made me a little frustrated but I figured it out.

It was then that fear started to creep in. We were not going to go down the main run. Instead, we were going to head over to another part of the mountain and drop into a bowl run… Looking at the route we needed to take, I was starting to get worried, and I let my friends know it. 

With my back facing a cliff that I felt would surely end my life, and my face to the mountain with my hands in the snow I made my way around. Finally on some flat ground again, I couldn’t keep my fear in. I was shaking. All it would have taken was one slip or bump and I would have been on my back and I don’t think I would have made it out (there is of course some exaggeration here, but because of my fear it definitely felt like this).

I would later realize that this was probably the best run we had done all trip. However, the fear I had before going down the mountain outweighed any enjoyment I might have had. I never did go up that lift again.

What is Fear?

Often times, this feeling of terror is the type of emotion we associate with fear. That’s why I was always confused when I was taught to fear God. I associated fear with a type of horror. However, as I've grown up and studied further I really like what Martin Luther has to say on the subject. He brings a distinction to fear.

The first type of fear, the one we most often think of, is what he calls servile fear; a fear of a direct threat or danger. This is on the lines of terror or horror. But Luther also discusses a type of fear he calls filial fear. This is like the fear a child has for his father, mother or other authoritative figure. It is not a fear of being punished, but rather the fear of disappointing the one that loves and protects them.

What Does it Mean to Fear God?

So what does it mean to fear God? I do not believe it means screaming and running when we hear his name, but rather growing and finding a deep awe and respect for who He is. He is the one who brings comfort, peace, hope, joy, and love. He has sent his one and only son to die on my behalf.

So do I fear God? Yes. Not out of a terror of what he may do, but rather out of respect, awe and adoration for what He has already done on my behalf!