Do you struggle with anxiety, worry, or fear? I do too, but I’m discovering something that’s making a big difference.
I’ve had a life-long relationship with fear and its many faces: anxiety, worry, fright, and a nagging sense of impending doom. Some of my earliest memories are memories of fear: fear of the dark, fear of the first day of school, fear when I was in the water, fear when I got lost in the grocery store, fear of the mean kids at school.
So when I discovered God’s love and its power to dissipate fear, it was a game changer for me.
This became especially poignant when I began to discover that God’s love is not just sentiment, it’s an action: God Himself, loving me. God Himself, giving Himself to me. To love means to offer yourself as gift, it means self-donation for another’s good. Isn’t this the power of the cross of Christ: the place of God’s love, God’s self-gift fully manifest? The cross reveals God, the perfect, holy, eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient Creator, giving Himself for us, giving Himself to us.
How can fear stand in the face of this? John’s words are true:
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).
So, for years when I’ve felt afraid, I’ve focused on the cross and prayed, “Lord, I need more of Your love, increase my faith to receive Your presence in my life more fully.”
This has been tremendously helpful. But recently, a new revelation of how perfect love casts out fear has been challenging me in a brand new—and wonderful—way.
Fear is not just cast out when I receive God’s love (when I receive God giving Himself for me), I can cast fear out by giving my love (by giving myself for another). How could I have missed this before?
The entire passage surrounding John’s “perfect love casts out all fear” is full of the admonition and call to love like Christ loves.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:11)
We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. (1 John 4:21)
Notice that the two go together. John’s not talking about choosing to love out of a self-striving, drummed-up grit, but out of the well of God’s love for us. We love because we are the belovedof God. We love because He first loved us.
Love casts out fear coming in or going out, being received or being given, a gift to you or a gift you’re giving to someone else.
So here’s what I’m discovering: When I make my primary goal to love, fear can’t stop that. For every move fear makes, it can never leave me without a place to offer myself in love.
And the more I make it my primary aim to love others—to learn to love like Jesus, with a self-giving love—the less traction fear has in my life.
When I fear public speaking, I try to refocus on loving my audience, how I might truly give them some small gift they need.
When I fear something bad might happen to my loved ones, I remember that if something bad does, I can choose to love them in their new circumstances, whatever comes their way.
When I fear that I’ll fail in my leadership of Regeneration, I think about how there are 8 billion people on the planet in need of Christ’s love, and whether in this ministry or not, my aim is to love as Jesus loves.
To me, perhaps the most beautiful part of chapter 4 of John’s letter is in verse 17, where John writes, “By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world” (italics added).
God is love and perfect love casts out all fear. And as He is, so we are in the world. We can cast out fear with the love God has given us to give the world. No matter what.
Jesus, help us to love like You love, even unto death. Fear, I still hear you, but I’ll love no matter what.
Questions: Can you think of an example from your own experience of how loving others has cast out fear? What are you currently feeling fear about, and what can you actively do to combat that fear by choosing to love?