When you think of God, which of these emotions surfaces first?
Both fear and joy are legitimate responses to the nature and presence of God, and both are abundant in Scripture.
While both are legitimate responses to God, the church has had periods when one was emphasized over the other. Many of us have known individuals or local churches that focused on either fear or joy at the exclusion of the other. And that presents a warped view of God and our relationship with Him.
If all we’re ever taught is the fear of the Lord, we will likely turn into people who tread lightly, afraid of God’s wrath and punishment if we step out of line in the slightest. We can become somber, afraid to smile or be happy because we’ve come to see God as somber and continually looking on this earth with disgust.
On the other hand, if all we’re ever taught about is joy, we can fall down the dangerous precipice of certain TV preachers who tell us God just wants us to be happy. Sin becomes downplayed. Joy devolves into a focus on self and personal happiness.
Joy and fear are both biblical responses to God, and for both to be properly viewed and practiced, they must be seen together.
We are to fear God, but because of what Christ has done for us, making it possible for us to have a relationship with God, that fear is not an abject horror at the thought of God. Our fear is a recognition of God’s incredible nature: the all-powerful, all-knowing sovereign Lord over the universe. Yes, He takes sin seriously, and seriously enough that He stepped into our world to set us free from that sin. That kind of awesome love and power fills us with a holy awe of who He is and what He can do. That’s proper fear.
We are also to find joy in God, because in all His awesomeness, He loves us. He shows us grace. He could squash us like a bug hitting the windshield of a ’64 Buick, but He lovingly calls us to come to Him and embrace the abundant life He created for us. When we experience that, joy wells up in us.
One day you will stand before the throne of God. What will you experience: joy or fear?
- For those who chose life apart from God, they will know an “uh-oh, I blew it” fear.
- For those who walk with Christ by faith, they will experience joy and fear simultaneously. Those two emotions are not mutually exclusive. We will see God in all His power and glory, and we will certainly experience a fear of the Lord—an awesome reverence and honor for Him—like never before. But coupled with that will be an unspeakable joy. In that moment, we will see our Savior and experience the fulfillment of our salvation. Free from sin. Free from failure. Free from pain. Free to enjoy the blessings of His presence unhindered.
On that day, “Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away” (Rev. 21:3-4).
Fearing God and having joy in His presence go hand-in-hand. Embrace them both.
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