There is a difference between fearing the Lord and being afraid of the Lord. The former recognizes the greatness of God and his ability to do whatever he chooses. Therefore, he submits himself to the one that he recognizes as sovereign. Those who are afraid of the Lord, do not submit themselves to a sovereign God to rule over them. They instead perform actions in an attempt to keep God from exercising his anger upon them. The former will have a love relationship with God: the latter will struggle with love and acceptance.
How did Job respond when his world caved in upon him? He continued to fear the Lord. He remained steadfast in trusting God’s sovereignty and continued to submit himself to him. (Job 1:21) Had Job been afraid of God, would his actions have been the same? Most likely not. His actions would have more been in line with those of his accuser. If a person lives in fear and governs his actions to keep God from punishing him, how would he react when God does exercise wrath? As the accuser stated, “He will curse thee to thy face.” It would be in that manner that he would act.
God wants you to fear him, but not be afraid of him. Fearing God is respecting God for who he is and the power that he possesses. Those who fear the Lord will recognize God’s ability to raise up and to put down, to love and admonish or to rebuke and chasten, and to exercise his will because what he desires is for the benefit of those he created.
When you are afraid of God, you have a difficult time accepting his love. Being afraid and accepting love cannot cohabit because perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18). Recognize that God loves you and that any actions that he has towards you will be motivated by his love. As we seek him for our lives, blessings will flow to us from his love, but if our steps begin to slip, he by love will take whatever actions are necessary to keep us from ruining our lives.
Living a life of fearing the Lord is a joy and blessing, but living a life afraid of God is a struggle and burden.