The following is an excerpt from Girls with Gusto, a book I am writing for young women. I always think of the image of the mother tiger with the baby piglets around Mother’s Day. I hope you appreciate it, too. Happy Mother’s Day!
I’ve always struggled with the idea of fear as it’s shown in the Bible. Over and over, Scriptures tell us not to fear, whether it’s the future; an individual; groups of people; or strange, miraculous events. But then the Bible commands us to fear God (see Joshua 24:14 and Proverbs 3:7). In fact, there are warnings throughout the Bible for those who don’t fear God (see Exodus 9:30, Jeremiah 5:22, and Malachi 3:5).
If God is love (see 1 John 4:16), why should we fear Him?
Strangely enough, I found my answer in a story about a tiger…and a litter of piglets.
I once read of a zoo in Thailand that would coax tigers to suckle piglets. (Don’t ask me why.) I’ve seen the pictures of one of the tigers, all teeth and claws, loving on her adopted babies, oblivious to the fact that they had curly tails and flat snouts and made grunting noises instead of mews. The piglets were also oblivious to the difference, and climbed all over the tiger without a care in the world. To be sure, that tigress was a dangerous creature…but not to the ones she called her own. To them, she was a protector, provider, and source of love and comfort. She was Mama.
That’s how I envision our relationship with God. When we first come face to face with Him, our sin makes us feel exposed and vulnerable—like a defenseless piglet in the tiger’s den. We’re afraid of God because He is righteous and can execute judgment against us. We have the urge to run the other way, with our curly tails between our legs. Thankfully, the Spirit speaks to us in loving tones, encouraging us to trust in God. If we do, He forgives us and accepts us as His own.
Once we belong to God, we no longer have to be afraid of His judgment. We can rest securely between His teeth and claws and know that He will use them to protect us and provide for us, and nothing can separate us from Him (see Romans 8:38-39). There is no greater safety or calmer peace than in God’s presence.
Believe and Obey
But, like any good parent, God has given us rules for our own good. When we fail to be obedient, there are consequences. He still loves us, but we have to learn from Him so we can mature in our faith and take the next step in our journey.
Moses said it this way: “You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.” (Deuteronomy 13:4) When we fear God, we cling to Him with loving obedience. This is the opposite of being afraid of something and running away from it (like I run from spiders).
The statement, “Fear the Lord your God,” means two things:
- Believe in God—that He exists and His Word is true (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17); and
- Obey God—that we should accept Him into our hearts and follow His commands daily (see Deuteronomy 13:4).
This is why the Bible says that we are to fear only God (see Deuteronomy 6:13 and 1 Samuel 12:24). He is the only one worthy of such honor.
If we will believe in God and obey Him, we will have the same peace and security as those little piglets snuggled up warm and safe in the arms of the tiger.
Doesn’t God care for you, nurture you, and love on you? Isn’t He every bit as attentive and protective as a new mother? As you celebrate Mother’s Day, I encourage you to think about the “mothering” role God has in your spiritual life.