Around this time of year, we hear of the tidings of comfort and joy. But what about the interplay of comfort and fear?
Acts 9:31 reminds readers to "Live in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit." Together. At the same time.
It's easy to confuse fear of the Lord with fear of snakes or fear of heights. That completely disorienting kind of fear that kind of sets your head spinning and your heart sinking. The kind that kicks your fight or flight instinct into overdrive. But we know that's not the kind of fear we're talking about when we're talking about the fear of the Lord.
The command is never to be afraid of God; it is always, always simply to fear Him.
To fear God is to remember that He's that much bigger than you. It is to recognize that He's that much greater than you. It is to look around in awe and marvel that one good and gracious God created all this - from the thunderstorm to the rose petal, from the rainforest to the butterfly's wings. The big and incredible, the small and indescribable, the everything and the all, was created by one Creator who saw fit to weave such wonders into the world. And who then saw fit - and saw need and promise and goodness - to create you.
The fear of the Lord is the speechlessness of knowing that He was both willing and able to do something for you that you could never do for yourself - He paved an access road to Heaven with the blood of His own sacrifice.
That...is something to give due respect to and to posture yourself in fear. Not afraidness, but awestruck recognition of the glory of God.
It's enough to make you think maybe you'd better just thank God and back away. That maybe you ought to keep a respectful distance and not fathom a relationship with such a God, even if you've heard that a relationship is precisely what this God wants. That's where the comfort of the Holy Spirit comes in.
If the fear of the Lord reminds you that God is this bigger, greater, good, and gracious being that is so far beyond what you could ever imagine, the comfort of the Holy Spirit is knowing that He's standing right next to you. That He, too, understands how intimidating it might be to consider the possibility of God, so He took it upon Himself to bridge the gap. To enter into your space so that you might know Him better. So that you might understand both the infinite and the intimate.
You remember when Elmer Fudd would be staring down the rabbit hole, gun cocked and ready to shoot? Then Bugs would walk up behind him with a carrot in his mouth, crunch one big bite and say, "Eh....what's up, doc?" That's the comfort of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
We're a people - God's people - standing around, waiting and watching for God to show up. We're anticipating what it will be like when we see Him face-to-face. We're staring up at the Heavens thinking about this God who is so incredible we can't even imagine Him and we're more than a little nervous about what that moment's going to be like. I mean, this is God! And all of a sudden, there's this loud crunch behind us. We turn around and the Holy Spirit is standing there, saying, "What's up, doc?"
God is here. He's standing right next to us. He's walking right beside us. He is with us, no matter where we are. Because He has found it fit to be here. He longs to be with His people. By the comfort of the Holy Spirit, we are reminded that although we live in the fear of the Lord, God is nothing to be afraid of. He is infinite and intimate and what an honor it is that He has blessed us with both.
The fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Together. At the same time. Right now. Forever. For you.