The one who fears is not made perfect in love. – 1 John 4:18
Dealing with fear is a daily part of life. I regularly get to talk with children and parents who are struggling with fear.
There’s good fear and bad fear. Good fear should begin and end with God. An awe-filled, respectful fear of the Holy, All-powerful, Loving God is what separates the wise from the fool (See Proverbs 1:7). This healthy fear will draw us to God.
But sin distorts our relationship with God and our healthy fear of him, making us inherently aware of our shameful insufficiency—our ‘nakedness’—before him.
“[Adam] answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” – Genesis 3:10
This spiritual nakedness before God is the source of life’s bad fears. Some try to run and hide from God. Others work hard thinking they can adequately cover up their nakedness with their own goodness. Still others dismiss their nakedness by pushing God to the margins or denying that he even exists.
But God’s love overrules fear. Knowing and relying on the love God has for us, through faith in Jesus Christ, restores our relationship with God and puts fear in its proper place. In Christ, the fear of God’s holy and righteous judgement and punishment, the fear of all fears, is eliminated.
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:16-18
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” – Romans 8:1
Overcoming the daily fears of life is a matter of perfecting love, just like a quarterback practices to perfect his throw. We should practice, first, to know and rely on the love God has for us. And because God is love, we also must practice living in love by loving him and others with that same love he gives us.
When we are experiencing unhealthy fear, we need to examine our love. We can think nothing of spending hours each week practicing sports or other activities and hobbies. But how much time does your family spend practicing to be perfect in love?
“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” – Psalm 27:1