While it’s true that fear and love are opposite, fearing God and loving God are identical.
My Dad taught me the fear of the Lord, not by what he said about it, but in his way of loving me. I loved him (and still do) so much that I never wanted to disappoint him. At times I was tempted with immorality, but the thought of facing my dad drove that thought from my mind. Disappointing him lessened the allurement of sin. I think it’s safe to say that I messed up my life a little less thanks to him. My dad loved me (as he did all five of his children) with a love that drew out the best; I always wanted to be the kind of person he saw me to be – a good deal better than I truly was.
This is the case with Father God. That must be why joy is so intricately tied up with the fear of the Lord.
“How joyful are those who fear the Lord – who follow in his ways.
You will enjoy the fruit of your labor.
How joyful and prosperous you will be!
Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home.
Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table.”
The children of God are one big (sometimes) happy family. But the contingency is real. I won’t be truly happy until I fully love God, learn his ways, and base my life on them. His ways are not too cumbersome or difficult to grasp. Jesus summed them up neatly: “Do what I command.” What did Jesus command? One thing: love.
Teach me to love you, to appreciate you, to follow after you with all my heart. Teach me to fear you; this is the pathway to wisdom and to joy. I desperately need both. Today I commit myself to love, loving you first and loving those around me. Keep me from saying anything anti-loving today. Keep me from every unlovely thought.