There are times when a verse with which I am very familiar takes on a new meaning, or more accurately, I feel like I understand it on a deeper level. I experienced this with something that the Apostle John wrote in his first epistle.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”1 John 4:18, ESV
I always understood from this verse is that love is the antidote to fear. That much seems clear from what John writes. But the problem is that I seemingly never practice love to the point where the fear goes away.
The problem is that until now, I haven’t let the very next verse inform me on how the fear goes away. The next verse is:
“We love because he first loved us.”1 John 4:19, ESV
It is not my ability to love that casts out fear. It is an understanding of who loves me that casts out fear.
When I am fearful, it is because I doubt that God loves me enough to see me through the pain or difficulty. When I am fearful, it is because I doubt the goodness of God.
Full Stop. Let that sink in.
Fear comes because I have not fully acknowledged and acted upon God’s love for me.
How this works itself out in my life is that I avoid pain and withdraw from difficult situations because I don’t think that I will be strong enough to get through it.
The truth is that I am not strong enough. And it is not my ability to love that will cast out fear. It is a right understanding of who God is and how much he loves me that will take away my fear.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”Ephesians 2:4–9, ESV
Note that . . . because of the great love with which he loved us, we were made alive.
Before the world was ever created, each of us was loved. He knew us individually and called us by name into his kingdom.
He loves me even when I fail. He loves me even when others hurt me. He loves me no matter what.
Fear comes when I forget this.