Devotionals, Issue 37, Worship

A Praiseworthy Fear

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A Praiseworthy Fear

Earlier this year, clumps of hair began to fall out whenever my fingers gently ran through my long black hair. Even when I didn’t touch my hair, strands fell off easily onto my clothes, my food, and wherever I was standing.

“What’s happening? Haven’t I just recovered from a bout of dengue fever which bruised my body with purplish-red spots? Now that the spots have healed, this hair loss issue comes up! I don’t even dare look at myself in the mirror anymore,” I wrestled silently. My soft and thick hair, the very feature that used to bring me pride and joy, was turning into limp, lifeless strands.

One evening, as I sat on the floor in disbelief, staring at yet another clump of hair on the ground, my husband quietly came behind me, sat down and hugged me close. I blurted out, “At this rate of severe hair loss, I’m afraid I’ll become bald.” He said, “You’ll always be beautiful to me.” When I asked why, he quoted from Proverbs 31:30, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”

In my mind, I knew that verse rang true, but my heart didn’t believe it fully. It felt like a consolation prize to soothe my downcast spirit. Later, my husband explained, “I didn’t marry you because of your head full of hair. I married you because of your heart full of gold. Because you are a child of God who fears Him, you are a reflection of who He is, and that is what matters most.” It dawned on me that he wasn’t offering me a consolation prize, but a top prize which sparked affirmation and praise.

As I reflected on the God-fearing woman in Proverbs 31:10–31, I realised that little is mentioned about her looks, but much is emphasised about the works of her hands, and her heart behind her actions. She is hard working inside and outside the home (v.13–19), generous towards the needy (v.20) and well-prepared for tough times (v.21). One interesting fact about this Bible passage is that it is actually an acrostic poem, where each of the 22 lines starts with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. To have the description of the woman end with verse 30, praising her fear of the Lord above the transient nature of beauty, reminded me that the most important thing is to value my relationship with God above external appearances.

It may seem strange that the fear of the Lord can be a good thing and even praiseworthy, because the word “fear” tends to be associated with negative emotions or dreadful experiences. However, the root of the word “fear” in Hebrew actually connotes a sense of reverent awe or worshipful respect. According to Old Testament scholar John Goldingay, “Hebrew uses the same words for being afraid of someone fearsome and for respecting someone whom it’s appropriate to revere…. In the Wisdom books, awe is seen as a key aspect of a relationship with God, of crucial importance to understanding God and life.” The praiseworthy woman knows who God is and has a right attitude towards Him.

My hair fall issue continued for a few months, but it healed naturally. New hair grew back as my hair growth cycle normalised, and I was relieved. Looking back, I realised that while I was fearing the loss of beauty, it was more important to fear the Lord. In our world today, where we may easily compliment one another on OOTDs, talents or achievements unlocked, may we be challenged instead to praise one another for our fear of the Lord because that is the most attractive quality that is everlasting