By: Cheri Fuller
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.
We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:18–19 NIV
Worry to Wonder
Instead of withdrawing, substituting, retreating, or letting our fears harm our relationships, we can let these struggles drive us to the cross. For as Larson says, “Fear is the handle by which we lay hold of God.” Laying hold of God enables us to receive His love for us—an unfailing, unconditional, powerful love that drives out the dread of rejection and enables us to be vessels of love to others.
Experience God’s love. As the little verse goes, “Do you love me, or do you not? You told me once, but I forgot.” Many of us have heard a lot about God’s love. We’ve read about His love and seen His love in other people’s lives. But have we experienced God’s love in a way that brings our hearts to rest? One Sunday just as we were singing the words, “There’s no place I’d rather be in your arms of love, in your arms of love, holding me still, holding me near in your arms of love,” I noticed Bonnie, a third grader I’d taught in children’s church, going up and down the aisles, looking for her dad. Bonnie had a bewildered look on her face as she passed each row, but she was persistently looking up and down each one until she found him.
Finally she arrived at our aisle and saw her daddy a few seats down from me. She took off, climbing around me and several others. She literally leaped up in his arms and rested her head on her father’s shoulder. As the song continued, he held her small hand in his and the biggest smile I’ve ever seen lit her face up. She was home! This picture of what we were singing struck me: God wants our hearts to come home to Him—He wants us to feel that same kind of daddy love as Bonnie did with her dad, only much more.
First John 4:18 tells us that we don’t have to fear someone who loves us perfectly as God does. Or as the Message translation puts it, “There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear.” Knowing His complete and total love for us delivers us from any dread or worry of what He might do to us or what life would deal us! It frees us from having to please people or being afraid they’ll reject us or abandon us to truly love.
David knew what it was like to be misunderstood by friends and family and pursued by enemies who betrayed him. But despite rejection and discouragement, he proclaimed, “No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame” (Psalm 25:3 NIV). No matter what people did or how they treated him, his hope was in the Lord.
This leads us to a much greater, more eternal reason to know God than just living a life free of fear. Knowing God through trusting our life to the lordship of Jesus Christ is an end in itself. In fact, it is the end, the purpose for which we were created, as the ancient tradition of the Heidelberg Catechism states: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”
As A. W. Tozer said, “God is not asking you to come to Christ just to attain peace of mind or to make you a better businessman or woman. You were created to worship. God wants you to know His redemption so you will desire to worship and praise Him.” What a great invitation. If you don’t know God, take time to ask Christ to forgive your sins, to reveal Himself to you and come into your heart, and to fit you for heaven so you will live with Him forever.
Verbally share your fear with someone else. When we confess what we’re afraid of, whether that is “I don’t know if I’ll ever get married,” or “I’m afraid I won’t ever have a close friend again,” our anxiety shrinks to a manageable size and solutions begin to come into view. Sometimes we need professional help to discover why we’re afraid of people or why we fear rejection. But little by little we can gain insight into the roots of distrust as we talk them over with a counselor or a trusted mentor.
When we hide the fear inside our head, it multiples and isolates us from other people. When we acknowledge instead of deny or cover up our fear with some self-defeating strategy, it can propel us into pursuing God and healthy relationships.
Look to God’s Word to discover who you are in Christ. At the very heart of our fear of rejection are the misbeliefs we hold about ourselves. Go to God’s love letter to you, the Bible, and exchange every misbelief or lie about yourself with the truth about who you are in Christ. Overrule what you think or feel with what is true about you according to scripture. For example: if you think, I am unworthy and unacceptable, God’s Word says that in Christ, you are accepted and worthy in Psalm 139:14: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (NIV). In saying this, we do not praise ourselves—we praise God for how He made us and the purpose He has for us.
When you feel There is nothing special about me, remember that God says you have been chosen and set apart by Him. Not because you are so great without Him (actually we are nothing without Him), but because you belong to Him: “It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30 NIV). Also, see Ephesians 1:4 and Hebrews 10:10 and 10:14.
As my friend, counselor Leslie Vernick, says, “Part of building a proper picture of ourselves is to see ourselves truthfully, as much-loved sinners, not as wonderful persons.” Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (NIV).
When you think, I am unwanted or I don’t belong to anyone, review the truth that you have been adopted by God Himself and you are His child. (See Romans 8:16–17, Galatians 4:5, and 1 John 3:2.) As you focus your mind on the truth, a confident sense of “Christ-consciousness”viii will replace your self-consciousness and you will be freer to love others, love God, and yourself.
Combat the fear of rejection or loneliness by becoming an encourager. Like Barnabas, one of my favorite New Testament heroes, we can become an encourager of others. As Hebrews states: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24–25 NIV).
When you set your focus on giving the gift of encouragement by showing appreciation for others, writing a note of thanks, and delivering help, support, hope, kindness, reassurance, and faith to others (for that’s what the word encouragement means), loneliness begins to flee and your heart, having given much, receives much.
God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Christ here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. . . . We love each other because he loved us first.
1 John 4:16–19 NLT
Lord, thank You for loving me first so I could know You. Here are the fears I have concerning relationships: I give them all to You. I want Your love to be the anchor of my relationships and my life. Help me to live and abide in You and for Your perfect love to cast out all fear from my heart, my emotions, and my mind. Then empower me to love other people as a result of Your love living in me.
When I am afraid,
I will put my trust in You.
In God, whose word I praise,
In God I have put my trust;
I shall not be afraid.
Psalm 56:3–4 NASB
Father God, when I am afraid, I make the choice and set my will to trust in You and Your Word. I praise Your Word, which strengthens me and frees me from fear of what others might do to me. I praise Your faithfulness, which assures me that You are always with me. No matter what enemies surround me, I don’t have to fear or be afraid. I can walk in Your presence, in Your life-giving light! Thank You, Lord!
© 2015 by Back to the Bible.
“From Replacing Worry for Wonder, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.”