By Sylvia Schroeder
I am into the fear of God. It seems to neon-light itself at me throughout Scripture. People have turned it into an undesirable emotion, but the fear of God is a good thing. The book of Proverbs loves it.
“In the fear of the Lord, there is strong confidence…a place of refuge…a fountain of life, to turn away from the snares of death…the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 14:26–27, 9:10 NKJV).
Solomon, both author and the wisest man who ever lived, ought to know, right?
In the complexity of God’s characteristics, his paradoxes perplex me, and that is part of his vastness and his perfectness. As difficult as it is to comprehend even a sliver of grace juxtaposed with mercy, righteousness, and judgment, or complete opposites like love and hate, not one attribute of God contradicts or lessens another. Because he is God, he is what he says even when my pea brain cannot join the pieces as I would with a puzzle.
And that’s where the conundrum comes.
Sometimes I’m scared when I need to fear.
I gave up my daughter in a courtyard on a sun-filled day at the Mayo Clinic. Oh, I’d given her up a million times before. I gave her up when we dedicated her as a baby at the front of the church, her lacy dress draped over my arm. I gave her up as she lay listless on her bed when her fever spiked in elementary school and fear kept me on my knees at her side. I gave her up many times as she grew, becoming independent, dating, driving a car, and leaving for college. But there, on a spring day, with the glorious warmth bringing life to the soil around me, I buried myself and offered her again. It was the most painful of surrenders.
A few weeks earlier, the doctor had told us our twenty-six-year-old daughter had an aggressive form of brain cancer. I gave her up to Jesus to take her home. And less than a month later, when the doctor said maybe she didn’t have cancer but would remain paralyzed and semi-comatose for the rest of her life, I gave her up to live.
Flat on my face—trembling—surrender brought a new understanding of the magnitude of God. Fear of him expands to something wonderfully terrifying. The awe of the Old Testament Jehovah, a name with letters withheld, too reverent even to pronounce, seemed to inhabit the crevices of my heart and mind and spill over, uncontainable. It was terrible and it was magnificent. In a dark night of sorrow, he was dazzling light.
My daughter is alive, a mother of three children and wife to an amazing husband. It is a halfway miracle. Not completely healed, not completely broken. Although she spends her days in a power chair, we have known a glimpse of an Almighty God, far more fearful than we’d imagined, much more trustworthy than we’d perceived.
Sometimes today, I get scared. I fear surrender as if I’d never experienced it. I am afraid what Jesus will require of me if I yield everything. I look at temporal things and forget the eternal, and panic sets in as though someone is jumping on my chest. But then I remember I’m answering the wrong question. It isn’t what we might face; it’s with whom. The answer is knowing God goes there. Wherever there might be.
Sylvia Schroeder and her husband care for missionaries world-wide with Avant Ministries. Captivated by God’s Word she writes with the perspective of someone who lived and raised four children overseas. Twelve grandchildren in her heart often wiggle onto her pages. She blogs at When the House is Quiet.
Photograph © Ayo Ogunseinde, used with permission