Fear Freezes; Love Thaws
I remember the time I was most overwhelmed by fear in my life. I was walking through the woods in Waverly Park in the middle of the night when I heard a scream like no other. It completely stunned me. I became one of the White Witch’s stone statues in Narnia; frozen mid-step. I’ll not recount the entire story, as I’ve already written about it here, but it truly is amazing how powerful fear can be. That’s true of how it affects us physically, but also emotionally and spiritually.
Perfect love casts out fear
That’s partly why this month’s memory verse is 1 John 4:18-19. Two key phrases occur in this verse, “perfect love casts out fear,” and, “we love because he first loved us.” These two phrases have been essential for renewing my mind when it comes to fear, especially if I’ve started to fear God in the wrong kind of way. Martin Luther became completely stifled by an unhealthy fear of God’s wrath, thinking that God was hovering over him, waiting for him to make the tiniest of mistakes so God could instantly squash Martin. Of course we are to fear God, but not in that kind of way, because “perfect love casts out fear.” His love is perfect. He loves us in a way that increases our awe and reverence of him, and increases our joy of being in his presence.
He first loved us
The second phrase is also key to understanding how to deal with fear; “we love because He first loved us.” This week I read a great little book called How Can I Be Sure I’m Saved? In it the author says, “This is the key to overcoming the fear of being condemned by God: [understanding that] God is first. The generosity of His love comes before the offense of your sin. That is a before of both time and priority. God chooses to show His greatness in beating everyone to the punch. He loves sinners prior to any chance of them loving Him in return.” This is a love that is so much greater than anything we can imagine. Dwelling on the power of His love will increase our joy in who He is and what it means to walk with Him. In fact, it’s pretty safe to say, based on this verse, that dwelling on God’s love is the antidote to fear.
But as we’ll see in this week’s message on John 7:1-24, the enemy wants us to be stifled by fear, in particular the fear of man, the fear of what others will think and do to us for believing in Jesus. This year we’re focusing on being free and fearless, and I think you’ll find 1 John 4:18-19 a powerful passage of Scripture toward that end. And yes I finally was able to break free from my frozen form in the woods of Waverly and finish the walk home. I still don’t know what was the source of that scream. And no I’ve not walked in Waverly after dark since!