There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. – 1 John 4:18
Last week, my friend gave me a copy of Hinds’ Feet On High Places for my birthday. To be completely honest, I little piece of my heart sank when I pulled the book from the gift bag and gazed down at the cover. I knew exactly what this book was. I had heard plenty about it over the years from folks who had read it: another book that was going to show me how to overcome fear in my life. I had a decent understanding of the premise from friends who credited this allegory with their truly learning how to trust the Lord, and, to me, it sounded like the exact opposite of something I wanted to read.
It’s not that I don’t love a good story. In fact, my favorite writings are always those that communicate biblical truth through storytelling. For me, the aversion came from the subject.
The difficult thing about fear is that it is the very obstacle that prevents you from conquering it. It presses one down under the weight of endless, locked chains, causing one to believe that the most terrifying thing of all is the very key that frees them.
But there I sat, staring at the cover of a book that had been chasing me everywhere I looked for months, almost as if the Lord were gently whispering to me, “It’s time”. So I begrudgingly conceded.
The world is a scary place, folks. There’s cancer, terrorists, robbers, GMOs, bees, floods, droughts, oh, and in case you haven’t heard, apparently the entire West Coast is all set to drop off into the ocean in a massive earthquake. Now, add being a parent to all of that (bad drivers, sharp objects, peer pressure, child molesters, kidnappers, broken bones), and you’ve got good reason to bolt the doors and never see the light of day again.
These fears of the mind come to us from real and logical sources, life, news, people, experiences, and therefore, could possibly happen to any of us. But there are even deeper fears of the heart that hold us back from where God wants to take us, setting our entire lives on a foundation of anxiety.
“I want to become more like Christ, but what if He teaches me perseverance through suffering? What if He teaches me trust through famine? What if He teaches me patience through unanswered longing? What if joy through unspeakable loss? What if humility through embarrassment? What if He has to hurt me to grow me?
And what if… just what if the prize isn’t worth the cost?”
“… perfect love casts out fear…”
The book opens with this verse from 1 John and has caused me to really meditate on it and its practical application. As an anxiety-lifer (medicated and all), I’ve turned all the “fear” verses in scripture over and over through the years. But suddenly, there has been freshly breathed revelation through this verse of how God wants wants to deal with fear in my life. It happened by answering two questions.
1. What casts out the fear?
Do I have to cast out the fear? Should I just muscle it up and put on a brave face? Do I have to force myself, through will of thought, to break my own chains? No. Because I am not responsible for casting out the fear. That’s perfect love’s job. What a burden is lifted to know that I can pass that task onto perfect love!
2. Where do you find perfect love?
This question brings the issue of practicality to a verse that seems to offer such an abstract, unreachable solution to the problem of fear. Okay, perfect love casts out fear. Great. How the heck to I get that? Do I already have it? How to I access it? Is there a button I can push to make it do the casting-out-of-the-fear thing? No. There is no button. But there is a place you can go where this love is freely given to us. A place that is so full of perfect love that fear can not even enter it. It is in the very presence of the Father.
“…God is love”
– 1 John 4:8
If God is love, and perfect love casts out fear, then we become fearless as He pours his Holy Spirit into us. The sweet, sweet place of His presence brings us more than the feels, it drives out fear from the deepest recesses of our hearts and sends it fleeing with it’s tail between its legs. Fear can not exist in the presence of the Father, so that’s where I want to be. While holding the hand of Jesus, there is nothing we can’t face. Abiding in Christ and being continually filled with His spirit doesn’t take the troubles away. In fact, the Bible promises us that “In this life you will have trouble” (John 16:33). But instead of being bound by the chains of fear, we can take refuge in the secret place, climb onto the lap of Christ and rest our head against His chest. And I think that John would know what he’s talking about when he describes this relationship between love and fear as he is the disciple who reclined against Jesus and laid his head on Jesus’ chest. (John 13:23)
And it’s really not that difficult to get there. Scripture tells us to draw near to Him and He will draw near to us. (James 4:8) All you need is a few minutes of privacy, a good worship CD, and presto! Distracted mind? Try praying in tongues. (She said what??? Yes, she did. It’s in the Bible.)
The idea of blind faith has always seemed irresponsible to me. Yet, this is what we’re taught to have in face of fear. If you have blind faith and trust in God, couldn’t you just have it for anything? I’m going to have faith that when I say the magic word, a purple unicorn will appear because someone told me so. Obviously that’s silliness. The Bible tells us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8), to actually experience God for ourselves. If the saying is true that trust always has to be earned, a few minutes in the throne room of the King will earn it real quick, and tasting and seeing will give you assurance in every fiber of your being that that prize is indeed worth the cost.
Then we can approach life boldly, with confidence and joy, without fear of whatever may come. Not because of who we are, but because of who He is. Because we know Him. Because we’re His.
I am so thankful for a Father who pursues me and calls me to Himself in spite of my weaknesses. What a beautiful week this has been! The Lord is calling you, too, to a life free from fear.
“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” – Psalm 34:8
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. ” – Psalm 23:4
“The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” – Psalm 118:6
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10
“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “”Abba,” Father.”‘ – Romans 8:15
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” – 1 Timothy 1:7