“The fear of the Lord leads to life: Then one rests content.” ~Proverbs 19:23
One can’t fiddle around with the Truth of His Word.
But I often do.
Substitutions like this:
If I live in fear of the future, I will cling to this moment with such passion that I will stumble into contentment.
If I live in fear of failure, I will drive myself so hard that I will seize contentment.
If I live in fear of rejection, I will curl myself up in such a shell that contentment will swaddle me.
And you know what?
My version of the Truth is a Lie...
(Read the whole thing.)
What caught my eye is "curl myself up in such a shell that contentment will swaddle me." My dear friend once said that, after our traumatic parting, he "curled up inside himself." Part of what we've done for each other is coax and persuade one another to emerge from our respective safe, but lonely, havens. His progress has reminded me at times of watching a crustacean begin to emerge from a borrowed shell, only to snap back inside at the first hint of trouble.
As for me, the one to watch out for is the fear of failure - driving myself so hard. As I have encouraged my friend to trust, so has he has led me to moderate my efforts and live more mindfully.
If you're going to fear something, fear the One who made you and knows you and loves you like no other. Bill Cosby had a great line, characterizing an exasperated father, something like: "I brought you into this world, and I can take you out of it!" He was, of course, joking; but, when raising children, especially boys, sometimes dads need to do the alpha male thing. There is no doubt in the kids' minds that Dad loves them with every breath he takes; but it is true that a father, secure in his role, commands a great deal of respect. Over many long years of pondering and prayer, I've finally figured out that's what the Scriptures mean by "the fear of the Lord." He loves us; we know it. But, in truth, He is in complete charge of us and all that is around us.
That's why I posted earlier about how I'd rather be God's child than His pal. As I grow older, my childish fear becomes profound respect and love; but you gotta start someplace, and very early on in our faith-walk, and sometimes in lapses after that, we shrink back from his majesty and cower in fear.
How that must hurt him. We've allowed the chatterers among us and the Deceiver himself to persuade us that God doesn't love us any more. What a crock. We have to keep watch that we're not turned away from the One who can really help and guide us. He wants us to part from our childish attachments to pleasure and possessions and pride, and that proves a stumbling block for many of us, me included.
The Deceiver is like the stranger who lures the child from his Father's side - come here, you pretty thing, look what I've got for you. Contentment lies in turning away in fear from him and running to Papa, trusting the One who caused you to live to provide all you could ever need. Maybe that's why sometimes men need to be fathers themselves before they can know God properly. Would any of you offer his son a stone when he asks for bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you, bad as you are, know how to give good things to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him! - Matthew 7:11.
When my friend was a worldly-wise teenager, he was cynical. Now he's more open, and he says he yearns sometimes for the kind of settled faith he perceives me to have. I don't want to laugh in front of him, so I don't, but me? settled faith?? When it's not amusing, it's scary to think I'm seen as knowing something like that, when I don't.
In my poverty of trust, I recognize my kinship with those who are desperately poor in the material sense. I've often been touched by the selfless generosity of those who have next to nothing; they often will share from their little as the widow did with her two mites for the temple. (Luke 21:1-4) So, if Papa gives me two pieces of candy, I shall offer one to my friend. If my friend thinks I have faith, then I won't deny it. I can only pray to the Father to help me fear the right things, and not try to do any of it alone.