Monday, September 12, 2011

The Problem With Fear

I have been writing quite a bit on fear lately, mainly as a reminder to myself. It is sort of a self-encouragement as I face a few unknowns in my life. The unknown is probably the greatest provoker of fear in our lives. It is the reason we turn on the light as we enter a familiar room at night. It is the reason we lose sleep as we face change in our life. It is the reason we play out different scenarios in our mind and seek the assurance of close friends. It is the reason we allow unfounded worry to hold our thoughts hostage and lose the pleasure of the simple things in our life, like our child's hug. Fear can put our entire life on hold. Fear is the enemy's playground.

The opposite of fear is love because real love keeps peace well established in our minds and hearts. Not just any love has the power to do this. It has to be a supernatural love. It has to be God's love. Fear aims to destroy but love builds up. Fear wants to disturb but love assures. Fear is a dark and ugly thing but love is a constant light. Fear condemns us but love sets us free. Fear reveals to us that we do not trust Jesus. The Scriptures tell us this:

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 him. (1 John 4:16)

This is important for us to understand and establish in our thinking, that we rely on God's love for us. We are dependent on this love. Everything we know and understand, all the promises we lean upon depend on this truth that God is love and that he loves us. We have to be absolutely convinced of this and fear is a sign that we are not. Right after this great verse we read:

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 4:18)

There is no getting around this: The one who fears is not made perfect in love. It means we do not trust God because we are not convinced that he loves us, not entirely. Often in stressful moments, dark times, facing the unknown we allow the enemy to sow seeds of doubt in the folds of the blanket of fear. We doubt our Father's love. We begin to think he can't love us and this thought eats away at  the promises, we begin to spiral downwards in our faith. It is amazing how quickly we are consumed by the darkness of fear. But I have good news:

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
   and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
   the night will shine like the day,
   for darkness is as light to you.
(Psalm 139:11-12)

Even the darkness cannot separate us from God. Just because we doubt God's love does not mean that his love can be doubted. Just because we close our eyes to the truth for a moment does not mean that the truth is not there. Just because we get distracted by the great waves of the storm around us and we start going down does not mean that Jesus is not right there to rescue us. There was a refrain from an old hymn that we sang in church when I was a child that stuck in a corner of my heart, even though I did not understand until years later:

Love lifted me!
Love lifted me!
When no one but Christ could help,
Love lifted me!

Understand, it is not our fleeting love of God that saves us but his unfailing love for us. Perfect love drives away fear. Knowing without a doubt that he loves us and forgives us, and then allowing that love to permeate our entire being will keep the darkness far from us. Being assured of that love also means that we are assured of his promises. Remember what David said about the valley of the shadow of death. He said he would fear no evil because he knew that God was with him and he found comfort in the promises of God. If David, a man without the Holy Spirit, had this understanding then how much more should we who are possessed by Christ and who are in Christ?

Our greatest assurance is, now that we are established in Jesus' love, that nothing can separate us from him. This is the thing we have to keep reminding ourselves of. Nothing from our past, no labels that are placed on us, not a lions den, not a storming sea, absolutely nothing can separate us from this love that has re-created us, making us a new creation, showering us in the blessings and promises of our Father:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? ...
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:15, 37-39)

I ask you, what is the use of faith if it will not sustain us in the dark days? Can we even call it faith if it flees from us in the midst of the storm? No, before anything else we need to make sure that it is well established in us, with roots that dig deep into our being that we are absolutely loved by our Father. We should know this without a doubt because he loved us enough to sacrifice his Son so that we could become his family. We have been made perfect in this love. There is no longer any need for us to fear anything and if we do fear it is a warning sign that Jesus is not our everything.

David said that he would fear no evil because God was with him. We will not fear any evil because we are rooted and established in Christ's love. We will not be overcome by evil but instead we will overcome evil with love. Fear has no part with us because perfect love drives away fear. This is my prayer for us today:

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)


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