The Fear of the Lord

fear of the LordIt was a few months before the release of my book, Smart Girl, Stupid World, when I met a beautiful red-headed intern in a very secular work environment. I didn’t know much about her, except for the fact that she was in her senior year at Vanderbilt University and she was raised in New York City. At 22 years old, she fit the primary demographic the book was written for, so I thought it would be interesting to get her take on the book’s subject matter. I invited her to lunch, making my motives clear that I wanted her input as an unofficial single-subject focus group for the content of the book.

I had no idea where this girl stood on matters of faith, so I opened our conversation with questions about her family and upbringing. She was raised in a family with one Catholic parent and one Jewish parent. Interesting. It was clear they were a tight-knit family and that she deeply loved her parents. Although her experiences with religion centered mostly around holidays and cultural traditions, she expressed her parents’ strong emphasis on morality and character. She was outspoken, articulate, and confident, and it didn’t surprise me that she came from a strong family background.

I explained the premise of the book: to help young women learn how to choose right in a world gone wrong; to give them a roadmap for how wisdom can be acquired in life.  We went through the first few chapters in summary, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear her affirming the need for the conversations about wisdom in her peer group. She nodded, smiled, and laughed… such a delightful young lady. When we got to Chapter 4: Smart Girls Fear the Lord, I was a little nervous. How could I make this information remotely relatable to someone who had no context for this Biblical principle?

I asked her what she thought of that phrase, “The Fear of the Lord.” She laughed and admitted it sounded scary, like lightning bolt theology where you better not screw up or you’re going to get it. Fair enough. I myself in no way understood the concept of the fear of the Lord accurately when I was 22 years old. In fact, I was pretty reluctant about diving into the fear of the Lord as a topic in the early days of the writing my manuscript… I certainly wasn’t crazy about devoting a whole chapter to it. I was afraid the fear of the Lord sounded too churchy and religious and would send young people running. But as I prayed and sought God’s heart on the matter, I realized there was no way I could write a book about pursuing wisdom without including (and emphasizing) the fear of the Lord.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
Psalm 111:10

Psalm 111:10 — “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

You can’t have wisdom without the fear of the Lord. And now I desperately needed a strategy to communicate this concept to a precious 22-year-old in a way that would convince her to seek God instead of avoid Him. In an instant, the Holy Spirit put the words in my mouth that I needed. This is how I explained it to her.

“Okay, remember what you told me about your parents’ stance on not drinking alcohol? You said you completely respect their wishes, not drinking in their home, because you know how strongly they feel about. Your love and respect for them influences your choice in the matter. You willingly honor them because you understand and appreciate their care and guidance in your life. The fear of the Lord is the same way. When we understand God’s love for us, when we respect His guidance and place of authority, we can willingly submit to Him, and make choices that honor Him.”

She sat up straight, blinked a few times, and said with a look of surprise, “That actually makes a lot of sense.” I smiled and exhaled silent gratitude to the Lord for giving me the right words to say in that moment.

When explaining the Fear of the Lord to “church kids,” it often comes out something like this: Do you love your sin more than you love God? Fearing the Lord means we put obedience to Him before anything else in our lives. It means we care more about being right with Him than momentary pleasures of sin or getting our own way.

Our relationship with God and the way we view Him impacts the choices we make. If you find yourself frustrated by the failures and wreckage that have come as a result of your choices, maybe you should think about this: What does your relationship with God look like?

Do you look on the Lord with honor and respect the guidelines and principles He’s put in Scripture? Remember, your beliefs will no doubt influence your behavior.

Do you fear the Lord?


  1. Jesse   •  

    Not just being a cheer leader for my wife here, but this is an extremely helpful important post! The fear of the Lord explained and understood this way, can help in all situations in life when facing seemingly little choices or big crossroads. If you grow in your respectful fear of the Lord in a way that influences the life choices you make, you can grow in overcoming anything, any obstacle, any addiction, or “besetting” sin or temptation. Of course you can’t do it alone, you need to lean into others to help and encourage, but sometimes it is just YOU and the LORD. That true fear of the Lord will compel you to make a wise choice in the heat of the moment! Thanks for righting this Sarah (My Wife & Love of my life!)

    • Jesse   •  

      I meant “Writing” but “Righting” kind of works too!

  2. Doug   •  

    Very sobering words! You are a smart girl!

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