Posts Tagged With: understanding

Do You Struggle With The Concept Of Having To Fear The Lord? We Have A Patch For That!

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Our fall Bible study has been centered on the Book of Proverbs and, a few weeks ago, the term ‘fear of the Lord’ came up for discussion. We examined the mystery of ‘fearing God’ as it often elicits thoughts of, or concerns about, a God who supposedly requires that we be frightened of Him. Our pastor, and facilitator of the study, wanted us to delve into what it means to ‘fear the Lord’ as it seems to stand in direct opposition to our being told that God is love. Is there a paradox here for the way we are to live – either ‘in fear mixed with love’ or ‘in love mixed with fear’ and do such dispositions affect how we feel about God?

As part of a New Year’s commitment, I hope to read more of the Bible and spend less time Internet-ing. Just yesterday, I came upon an interesting passage in Jeremiah that got me thinking about the topic at hand. I hope my personal discovery regarding this proves to be valuable to anyone who has struggled with the whole ‘fear of the Lord’ issue or teachings surrounding it.

Before I present the Bible passage, I’d like you to consider something rather interesting. Every good attribute of God that we as humans share – love, gentleness, kindness, self-restraint, etc. – is considered the ‘fruit’ of a spiritual life. But where does fear fit into all of this? Fear is not considered to be a fruit of the Spirit, so what is it to the believer and why do we need it? 1

Fear is interesting in that: a) God does not manifest or experience it; and b) it is a reactive response to an outside stimulus, something we share with the animal world, even.

If God doesn’t possess fear as a characteristic, then why does He regard it as a good thing for us (as per the writers of Scripture) and why would it make us more Godly?

Well let’s think about another good thing God doesn’t need. Repentance. God has no need to apologize for anything (although some prominent atheists would disagree). But without repentance (a change of mind especially concerning the will of God) we are clearly told that no human being can access God. And so, if repentance (like fear) isn’t an attribute of God, then what is it?

Fear and repentance both seem to be presented to us in the Bible as a reflexive action, harmonized with our response to God’s promptings or influence.

In the physical world, reflexes and responses can be honed and sharpened. Watch any budding martial artist working hard at their craft and you’ll see that come into play in a matter of time. Is it the same for those of us whose lives are focused on spiritual development? Can responding to everything life throws at us with a reflexive ‘Godly fear’ be of any benefit to His children? Will it have us thinking better of God’s character or disposition toward us in the long run?

And now onto the passage that shows us why fear of the Lord is not only important, but essential for living well.

” (36) … this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: (37) I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. (38) They will be my people, and I will be their God. (39) I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. (40) I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. (41) I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.”
Jeremiah 32: 36-41 (NIV translation)


According to the above Scripture, it is only after God gives us a ‘singleness of heart and action’ that Godly fear can even enter into our lives. Further, the fruit or benefit resulting from this particular fear is, “that all will go well for us and our children”. Fear is, if we interpret this text correctly, a reactive or reflexive response to God that not only gives his people peace of mind but extends this promise to those we treasure dearly!

God then compounds the importance of fear in verse 40 by showing us that after something incredible (i.e., salvation) has been gifted to us, as well as promising to continually do good things for us, He will ‘inspire us’ to fear Him.

Why?

So that we will never turn away from Him.

This healthy Godly fear is like His word: ‘God-inspired’. It is furthermore something you cannot actively develop or appreciate in your own strength. This fear is more like a gift (once again similar to repentance) that is infused into our souls to keep us on the straight-and-narrow where, to put it simply, it is a safer and better place to be. Is it so wrong for Godly fear to hold prominence in our thoughts and actions so that all will go well for us and so that we may continually recognize, as the Psalmist said, “It is good to be near God.”? 2

I think it’s important, at this point, to distinguish between Godly fear and worldly fear.

Worldly fear is primal – programmed into our genetic code – and can result in one’s being frozen like a deer in the headlights or in the fight-or-flight response. It can prompt chivalry in some and cowardice in others and is rarely viewed as a desirable thing.

But Godly fear is fruit-of-the-Spirit producing. The more of it we have, the better (and more immediate) our response is to the moral quandaries presented to us by the world we live in and the better our ability to see our way through the many challenges we will face in our lifetime. In conjunction with holy fear, we are given oceans of hope that are fed by the springs of God’s many great promises – promises we’d be fools to forget or ignore lest we lose out on all the benefits God has already showered on us, His children.

Preacher George MacDonald once said, “A perfect faith would lift us absolutely above fear.” That’s very true, but our faith is not yet perfect. We are ‘in process’. We live in the ‘now and not yet’ because of our frail humanity. Fear of the Lord then, in its purest form, can do nothing but evoke our deep love and utmost respect for the God who rescues us from darkness every day we find ourselves still breathing.

Truly, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.’ 3

© 2017 Flagrant Regard

1 See Book of Jude, Chap. 1, vrs. 23, Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians Chap. 5, vrs. 11
2 Book of Psalms Chap. 73, vrs. 28
3 Book of Proverbs Chap. 9, vrs. 10

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Knowledge, Christian Living, Spiritual, Spirituality, Struggle, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Four Things You Need To Know About People Suffering With Chronic Pain

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

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This article is a long time in coming.

As many of you know, I suffer from severe, almost daily migraine pain that has made my life extremely difficult to live at times.

Chronic pain does everything from suck up any good time you have in between sleeps to driving you to near madness with the frustration of not being able to overcome it.

But there are some things you – the healthier human (for now) – may not have thought of with respect to those living under the weight of frequent, unbearable pain:

1. HOW ALONE WE FEEL

Pain is a funny thing (okay, it’s not) in that when it invades your life and refuses to let go, there is no amount of comfort offered, no amount of encouraging bible verses available, no amount of sympathetic words from your loved ones that can make you feel any less alone in your suffering.

It doesn’t matter that there are hundreds of thousands of people going through what you go through every day. There is this overwhelming aloneness that seems to invade your mental space and press in around you. Though those of us with faith know that we never are alone in our pain, it doesn’t change how we feel when we’re in its oppressive grip.

I am blessed beyond measure, having a wife who so kindly and gently offers to massage my scalp or say, “Poor Ba”, when I am groaning in agony. I cannot express my gratefulness enough for her presence, love and co-endurance when I go through the more intense periods of suffering, especially. But even she, the love of my life, cannot step inside my soul to massage away the isolation chronic pain causes. It’s just the nature of the beast.

All I can do is work through it and continue to remind myself that I’m ‘alone, but not alone’ (as Joni Erickson-Tada’s new song proclaims) and force myself to remember that I will come through the storm and feel connection once again on the other side of it.

2. COMORBID DEPRESSION

What the heck is comorbid depression? Well it’s the all too familiar sidekick to anyone going through chronic pain.

You see, when pain encompasses so much of your life, time, personal dealings, conversation and whatever, you start to realize that you are not like everyone else around you. You’re less productive, you are a burden to your loved ones and society, you cancel out on get-togethers with family or friends and worst of all, you watch time pass you by extremely quickly. Another year gone and you’ve done what? Nothing much (or so it feels). So there’s THAT collective of thoughts or mental meanderings that get depression festering nicely.

But then there’s the physical aspect of it. When you’re in chronic pain, your brain/body (along with any drugs you’re taking) is doing its darndest to produce endorphins or whatever feel-good chemicals that are at its disposal to try and relieve your pain. I’m sure that they can only be stretched so far and for so long before saying, “we’re done – can’t help the dude any more – shut off the valves”. And so when you’re out of the extreme pain for any length of time, you have no feel-good chemicals left in your body or mind and you crash. You often crash really hard, in fact. I know – I’ve broken down in tears … weeping like a man at the funeral of his mother. Or I’ll sit around for hours – whole days even – doing nothing and feeling like doing nothing. It will take a good 24 hours or more sometimes before I can get into gear to accomplish anything as basic as putting dishes away or even having a shower.

3. COLLATERAL DAMAGE AND INCONVENIENCE

As already mentioned, many things have to take a back seat to the person suffering with chronic pain. Trips are cancelled. Family events are postponed again and again. Church attendance is spotty. People get sick of hearing your litany of complaints and/or symptoms because that’s all you’ve got going on at times.

In my case, I’ll be up for nights at a time – unable to sleep due to the severity of the pain. My wife often never sees me during daylight or early evening hours and when she does, I’m a hot mess.

Drugs being tried out or taken regularly can have serious or problematic side effects, supporting the old adage, ‘the cure is worse than the disease’ far too often. A ‘can’t live without ’em, can barely live with ’em’ scenario almost always prevails.

On behalf of all chronic pain sufferers everywhere, I would like to say, “We’re so sorry!” We’re sorry that we can’t be there for you – our loved ones – like we want to be. We’re sorry that we let you down time and time again, not being there for you when you need us. We’re sorry that we have cost you your time and have put a financial burden on you because of our sickness and the oft-expensive treatments and medicines needed to deal with our pain. We know that we’ve caused you your own pain. Please forgive us. If we could have it any other way, we would.

4. WE MIGHT NOT BE FIXABLE

So many souls with great intentions have come up to me and offered the name of this doctor or that product in the hope that I can finally be freed from my suffering. They will quickly go through their mental rolodexes and recount how ‘their sister’s best friend’ or ‘their mother’ had your condition and that now they are the ‘pink of health’ because of treatments A, B and C.

Letting you know now, this drives us chronic-pain folks a little nuts.

You see, unless we are guilty of Munchausen’s syndrome – pretending we’re chronically ill to get attention – you have to think that we have, by now, tried everything available thus far to make ourselves well. If we were beset by our particular ailment for only a few weeks, say, it’d be a different story. Sure – if that’s the case, throw out your best thoughts re our ailments, your home-remedies, your curative concoctions. But when we’ve suffered for years with some serious infirmity, please think twice before you offer us some solution that just popped up in a recent internet periodical or that worked for your grandmother when she had (what you think is) my particular condition.

In addition to this, I would like to address any Christians out there who think that with a good ol’ fashioned healing service that’s we’d be out of the woods – all cured ‘n hunky-dory. Sometimes prayer will not result in a person’s healing. Paul the apostle had poor vision. Timothy had some stomach ailments. I have migraines. They were not given to me as a punishment for sin nor are they continuing for lack of faith or because of something I have held back from God. Poop happens and pain can be that happenin’ poop.

That being said, YOUR PRAYERS ARE WELCOME and are very much needed and appreciated. How God deals with your prayers or mine is mysterious at best, but He is near to those who call on Him and we who walk through the valley of the shadow of death (and yes, the pain can be so bad at times that you think you will die or that you and everyone else would be better off if you did).

Christ’s cup of suffering wasn’t removed from Him when He begged heaven from the garden and yet look what He accomplished. I may never, in this life, be free from the pain that has become my life, but I tell you the truth – pain, for me, has served as a call to prayer like a minaret to a Muslim. Pain is God’s calling card, I have always stated. It’s when I’m in the deepest pain that a lot of prayers get said – especially for those around me and for others who suffer greater woes than mine. Maybe without my suffering, I would be insufferable to God and others. I think pain keeps me real in a lot of ways that are spiritually healthy, to put it simply.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t continue to pray for healing for those who are sick. Sometimes, God’s will is to see some become well via a miraculous intervention. We’ve seen that before and you’ve probably heard the stories. Don’t stop thinking God is powerful enough to do mighty things just because today you will not be seeing or receiving a miracle.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS
Chronic pain is a fact of some people’s lives … my life. Still, I can’t believe how blessed I am despite having this invasive force in my world. Financially, God has met our needs – exceeded them in fact. He has kept me from plunging so deep into despair that I would consider taking the easy way out of this life. The people He has placed around me are golden – from my wife, family and friends to the many, many Christian souls who remember me (and Nancy) in prayer and who care deeply for the suffering all around the world – not just me. A big THANK YOU to everyone who has taken the time to listen to my grousing and just for being there for us.

© 2014 Flagrant Regard

“I was given a thorn in my flesh … to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
St. Paul, 2nd Letter to the Corinthians, 12:9-10 (NIV Translation)

“He causes the sun to rise and shine on evil and good alike. He causes the rain to water the fields of the righteous and the fields of the sinner.”
Jesus, Gospel According to Matthew 5:45 (The Voice Translation)

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
Jesus, Gospel According to John 16:33 (New Living Translation)

Categories: Compassion, Didactic, Evil, Pain, Religion, Spiritual, Suffering, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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