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)
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. i will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
It seems more of a challenge then ever to “fear not.” For most of us, our day starts with an alarm and goes on from there. The news I hear on the clock radio while I struggle from sleep is alarming. As the day goes on, there is usually no shortage of distressing information about a variety of people and situations. Sir Francis Bacon said that knowledge is power. This kind of knowledge, however, reduces me to a feeling of being powerless. And if it weren’t for the power of prayer, I would be.
One of the challenges we all seem to face is the struggle to let go and let God. We have a persistent urge to do it ourselves, even if the “doing” is taking frequent inventory of our fears.
But John tells us that love isn’t about fear. In fact, when we understand the love God has for us, it drives out fear. His love is perfect and all-encompassing. It fills up our trust so completely there’s simply no room left for fear.
Years ago when I was growing up, my father did most of the driving when we traveled. My mother sometimes took the wheel, but it wasn’t until she’d been driving for several years that she knew she had Dad’s confidence. She smiled as she told me when we got home after a trip, “I guess he really trusts me to drive now, because he went to sleep!”
If I’m letting God drive, shouldn’t I trust Him enough not to worry along the way? Do I think I might have to grab the wheel and force a turn to where I’m sure we should be headed? Do I imagine God might need me to watch out for hazards He’s not aware of, that could surprise Him? Do I suppose He’ll need me to navigate for Him because He isn’t familiar with the route?
Or am I just able to rest, talking with Him as we go along, enjoying His presence? Do I trust Him enough to have a refreshing snooze?
I guess it comes down to this question: Who’s driving this bus, anyway? If the answer is “me,” the next question is, “Why?”
God’s love for us is perfect. Our love for Him isn’t quite there yet! The reason for that may well lie in our experiences with human love. In a healthy home, a baby starts out loving and trusting the parents and caregivers who meet their needs. The trust is usually unquestioning in the young child.
But then, through the years, the young person is jolted by the fact that parents aren’t perfect, that trusted friends can let you down, that promises of undying love can be easily discarded. We still love, but we have developed fears. We fear the loss of belonging, of affection, of help, of fidelity, of regard. We fear abandonment. Promises are increasingly fragile; we fear the shattering of our hopes, the foreclosure on our emotional investment. We fear we will be inadequate parents for our children, or inadequate children for our parents.
Subconsciously — and wrongly — we carry some of those very human fears into our love relationship with God.
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” (Isa 43:1)
God wants us to understand that His love isn’t like ours. We belong to Him; that will never change. His Father-feelings of love for us are constant. He has promised that He will love, strengthen and uphold us, and He never breaks His promises.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned .. . Do not be afraid, for I am with you. . .” (Isa 43:2,5)
He will never leave or forsake us; He is absolutely dependable. His love is eternal. Because His love is perfect, we never have to question whether or not He has our best interest at heart. His love is not only rock-solid, but our decision to buy into it is the best investment of any kind we will ever make.
God also wants us to understand that while His love isn’t like ours, our love can become more like His. When we trust Him to drive, we have a lot more time and energy to share with others. Under His direction, we can afford to take the risks of involvement because He has our backs. Because we can count on His love, we can weather the disappointments and betrayals that may come from our other relationships.
Perfect love drives out fear because it involves perfect trust. Now that’s a destination worth heading for!