To Fear or Not to Fear, that is the Question
Recently I have become aware of my propensity to fear. I fear poverty when I am old. I fear not being liked. I fear being viewed as a failure. I fear being a bad father and causing my children to stumble and run from the faith. I fear that I am not preparing my children for real world. I fear…
Fear is a bigger part of my life than I ever thought. If you are like me, we can put on a big façade and act macho and self-confident, and there are plenty of times when those feelings are ripe and over-blossoming. But there are also plenty of moments, even hours, when fear is in the driver’s seat of my life and my decisions.
Recently I have been reading and studying 1John for our sermon series. In chapter 4, the apostle John declares, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” Now I know that the passage goes on to speak about judgment and loving others and such. But for me, the question arose, “How is my understanding of the Heavenly Father deficient such that I fear these things instead of trusting in his goodness and grace?”
In wrestling to find an answer to this question, I offer you my insights into my life. Maybe they will be of service to you and your personal reflection. My fear of old age poverty has to do with not trusting that God is watching out for me. I believe the lie that if I don’t watch out for myself, then no one will. But that is a bald-faced lie. God is clear in the Scriptures that He is the one who protects us. “Some trust in chariots, some trust in horses” and some trust in their own abilities, but the psalmist reminds us that we should trust in the ‘name of the Lord our God.’ He is a loving father. So when I sense fear about my future, I am learning to turn back to the Lord praying, “Our loving, providing, caring, concerned Father…overpower me with your love.”
When I fear that I won’t be liked or that I will be viewed as a failure, I trust the opinions of people more than the declaration of God. He has said, you are a cherished possession, a pillar in the house of God, a holy nation, a people belonging to God. All of these titles come from the Word and when I base my value or success or even my appeal to others upon their opinions, I am trading the truth of God for a movable, ever-shifting set of expectations. Scripture calls this shifting sand. And so the fear of how I am perceived must give way to the truth of who God says I am. And so I pray, “Lord, let me care more for you and your kingdom than for the fleeting thoughts of others.”
When I fear that I am causing my children to stumble or not be prepared, again I am finding that my fear is rooted in a performance mentality with the false idea that I can actually lead my children to God and make them into the people I want them to be. In my saner moments, I realize the insanity of such a declaration. Only God can shape the heart and lead people into his presence. I can certainly hinder that but ultimately it is about God working in the heart of a sinner to draw them to repentance and to prepare them for the works of service he has already determined that they should do in his world. And so I pray, “Shape them in spite of me for you alone can do the work that I fear I am screwing up.”
Ultimately, what I am realizing about my life is that my fears are driven by a failure to understand and comprehend the great love God the Father has for our world and us. His love, his concern, his desire, his purposes will always be good. As the Heidelberg catechism reminds me, “God…so rules [our world] so that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty, all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but from his fatherly hand.” (HC 27). Fear believes the lie that God isn’t a father and He isn’t in control. But faith stakes its claim upon the truth that God is a good, good father and He is in complete control of whatever things come my way. That truth overcomes fear by reminding me of the perfect love of the Father for his children. And when I focus on this, truly fear is driven away for ‘there is no fear in love.’