The Psalms are full of reminders about the rewards and benefits of fearing God (for example Psalm 103 and 112). But the bible also tells us that there is no fear in love and perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). So what sort of fear should we have of a loving God who “loves us with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3)?
Consider what happened in the life of Job as he confronted seemingly capricious calamity. This experience could become a cause for an unhealthy fear of God. But looking closely at what Job learned, we can start to see how difficult events can lead to a sense of fearful respect for God’s sovereign control of our lives. This sort of fear comes from seeing that God can choose to use any aspect of His “secret” will (that will that He has for us that is not revealed in scripture but unfolds in our lives as we walk with Him) to affect our life circumstances in order to bring about maturity. Whether easy or hard, any expression of God’s secret will in our lives is not capricious but expressly and purposefully planned. It takes big faith to trust God’s wisdom for planning these actions in our lives and not to judge an action based on our perception of its justice. God is always just and always wise and what one may learn from sovereign events is not that God needs to be just according to our perception but that one is being challenged to maturity in God’s wise expression of His will for us.
This is easier said then done and becomes a process and paradigm for growth as we succeed and fail along the way. But being fearful of God’s power to direct our paths through the unknown is the type of fear that brings the Psalmist’s promised rewards to us as we mature in it. Kind of like being at the top of a roller coaster ride for the first time. We know the ride will land us back at the finish, but as we peak over the first drop our hearts beat fast, forcefully and fearfully as we anticipate its effect and course upon us. As scripture shows us God’s revealed will of His “effecting us” on the ride (love, protection, not giving us more than we can handle, presence in sorrow etc), we can look expectantly at the ride as a source for growth and not as a challenge for theodicy. Then as we see how God uses events to build us, the fear of Him directly effecting our lives motivates us to action and grows us from suspicion into trust. The bad fear of “what will happen to me” is cast out by God’s love and grows into the good fear of “how will God use this in my life?” and “how should I be growing in this?”. The more we see our growth in response to good fear draws us deeper into trusting Him which draws us deeper the the Psalmists promised rewards for fearing God.