“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 Jn 4:18, NLT).”
I’ve struggled with fear throughout my life. I was a fearful child…a timid teenager…a shy young adult.
In my late 20s/early 30s there was a paradigm shift when God taught me that fear is what satan uses to control us. He also taught me how to use this weapon, my enemy so quickly deploys, to my advantage.
So, for years, when I sense fear rising up inside me I go to God with it, and 9.9 times out of 10, overcoming that fear is what needs to be done. It’s like fear is an invisible force field separating me from God’s goodness. It always seems to be impenetrable until I take a step of faith.
Lately, this verse keeps showing up in various translations, but the New Living Translation did me in.
“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love (1 Jn 4:18).
That last part: it makes me uncomfortable, and I can feel an unknown brokenness stir. Why?
Because I am afraid. But of what?
I’ve come up with all kinds of things.
I’m afraid my marriage will never be reconciled…Afraid I’ll never have a family again.
I’m afraid I’m too much…and I’m afraid I’m not enough.
I’m afraid to move forward…and I’m afraid to be still.
I’m afraid of making bad decisions…and afraid of not making decisions at all.
I’m afraid of not having a home…of losing my job…of the future…
I’m afraid God will take away all the good things in my life…and I’m afraid of trusting Him in my most vulnerable places.
I’m afraid I’m not praying enough…and I’m afraid God doesn’t really give us the desires of our heart.
I’m afraid God isn’t real…and I’m afraid the rug will get yanked out from underneath me again.
Despite my laundry list of things I think I’m afraid of, God tells me very clearly in 1 John 4:18 the root of my fear.
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love (1 Jn 4:18, NLT)
Do you see it?
The root of my fear is being punished.
I don’t even have to spend a whole lot of time trying to figure out why I fear punishment because it is right there…
I fear punishment because I have not fully experienced God’s perfect love.
How do I know this?
Because if I had experienced God’s perfect love, I wouldn’t be afraid.
It haunts me, this idea that I’m afraid God is looking for ways to punish me. This fear resides in the deepest caverns of my spirit. It is the subtle lie my enemy has whispered for so long it has seeped into the capillaries of my heart. It’s how my spiritual spectacles are broken.
What a glorious gift of God’s grace to reveal how I’m broken…and really, how we’re all broken if we’re struggling with fearfulness. And what a wonderful mercy to know there is a cure: experiencing God’s perfect love.
So, I pray…
Oh, Lord, show me Your perfect love that drives out fear…So my roots can grow down into Your love and keep me strong. May I have the power to understand, as all God’ s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep Your love is. May I experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to fully understand. Then, I will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from You”(Eph 3:17-19).
How have you’ve experienced God’s perfect love? How has His love driven out fear in your life? As a side note, this is not a rhetorical question. So, please share in the comments, or in an email, or via Facebook. I want to hear the story God wrote and is writing for you.