It’s really a year-round trap. The lie that we need to be a better person for God to love us. Or that if we could reach the idea of perfection we have in our minds, God would like us more.
We’re right to think our sins keep us from God. But our sins do not keep God from us. His infinite love is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The reason for becoming more virtuous is to enable us to love God more, not the other way around.
King David had an innocent man killed to cover up his violation of the man’s wife (2 Sam:2-17), and when God called him on it, he repented. God called him “a man after my own heart,” which shows us that no sin, if we repent of it, can keep us from the closest intimacy with God.
God loves us to boldly be ourselves, like David, and lean completely on Him for what we need, especially for mercy. If we’re doing that, we have nothing to fear.
Gift of fear?
But what about the “gift” of fear of the Lord? “Fear” is sometimes translated as “reverence.” St. Hilary of Poitiers explained it this way: “Fear of God consists wholly in love, and perfect love of God brings our fear of him to its perfection. Our love for God is entrusted with its own responsibility: to observe his counsels, to obey his laws, to trust his promises.
“Let us hear what Scripture says: And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you except to fear the Lord your God and walk in his ways and love him and keep his commandments with your whole heart and your whole soul, so that it may be well for you?”
So that it may be well for you. Why do we fall into the trap of seeing God more as a prison guard than a caring Father? Do we really think we can “impress” the one who made the whole universe?
Remembering a beloved parent, teacher, or coach and how we feared to disappoint them because of our respect for them is a better way to envision “fear of the Lord.”
St. Teresa of Calcutta summed it up this way: “He knows your weakness. He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you.”
Let’s ponder this week how much we’re loved by God, and in this love deepen the meaning of our Lenten sacrifices.
” The reason for becoming more virtuous is to enable us to love God more, not the other way around.” How true this is! And it’s something that we so often forget in a world that measures us by our deeds and accomplishments. I volunteer as part of a prayer team at a local soup kitchen/day shelter. I circulate among the guests and spend time engaging them in conversation that usually ends with my taking requests for any prayer needs. The more I do this, the more I find myself loving God in ways that I never dreamed possible. Such a blessing!
Thanks for the inspiring example, Christine, of God’s win-win — he never allows blessings to go in only one direction!
In Genesis we have the flood story where God is fed up with humanity and Exodus 20, the jealous God inflicting generational punishment on all who hate him. Here in America we had the 1741 sermon by Jonathan Edwards “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
But God is greater, larger than any image we can have of him. It pays to read a lot and when I read Teresa Of Avila I came across observations such as “For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God” and “The feeling remains that God is on the journey, too.” She also wrote “May God protect me from gloomy saints.” She makes a freeing observation on our relationships with people we know: “God has been very good to me, for I never dwell upon anything wrong which a person has done, so as to remember it afterwards. If I do remember it, I always see some other Virtue in that person.”
Great lessons, all. God told St. Catherine of Siena that the purpose of our memory is to remember God’s blessings, so I like how St. Teresa applied that to His blessings that come through other people, no matter how obscured.
This is a great reminder during Lent how much God, the creator of the universe, loves us! At times we can forget that He doesn’t separate from us. We separate ourselves from Him through sin but if we
repent just as King David did, then we are made right once more!
I also like the examples you give relating fearing God. The main point is that it is not a servile fear but a fear of simply not disappointing a loved one.
God does not expect us to be successful, only to be faithful—St. Teresa of Calcutta
Great topic and keep up the good work!
I am always left encouraged and fueled for the road ahead after reading your emails. Thanks Rose!
Delighted to hear it, Chris! Prayers for a fruitful Lent.