I find it interesting that the Bible tells us that it is love, not faith, that drives out fear. I have often thought that if I just had more faith I wouldn’t be anxious or afraid. In his book Christian Maturity, E. Stanley Jones tells us that this kind of thinking really focuses all our thoughts on ourselves, not God ("I just need more faith!"). But resting in the Father’s perfect love is the only thing that can drive away fear and anxiety. That puts the focus back on God instead of myself (His love, not my faith). We find that truth in 1 John 4:18 and it goes on to tell us that fear has to do with punishment. If we are afraid of an uncertain future, or rejection, or we’re afraid to speak up, etc., the thing we’re really afraid of is the “punishment” of rejection, or not having enough, or not being able to handle whatever comes.
Another more serious aspect of fear has to do with our view of God. We’re afraid because we don’t really believe God loves us and will care for us in all the uncertainties of life. If we have a hard time grasping the truth of God's love for us, we might instead believe He is just waiting for us to mess up so He can catch punish us. We might get this idea from incorrectly interpreting the Old Testament. There are, of course, multiple passages that speak of God's punishment, or His wrath. But if we read these passages in context we see they are directed toward those who deliberately disobeyed or turned their backs on God, not those whose hearts were set on following Him. Abraham, Moses, David, and others who loved and followed God made mistakes and even sinned. God did discipline them, but it was in order to restore their love relationship with Him, and get them back on the right track.
In the book Warfare Praying, Mark I. Bubeck assures us that "God does not pour His anger on His own children. He does not inflict punitive hurt upon us. Yes, the Lord chastens or disciplines His own to correct them, but He does not judge or punish His servants. The punishment of sin was settled at the cross of Christ. Now all believers are justified. As a result, we all [believers] have peace with God" (122). What Good News!
Since I began drawing a heart in my Bible next to every verse that speaks of God's love, I see His love everywhere! Here are just a few places that remind us how much He loves us:
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. ~Deuteronomy 7:9
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! ~1 John 3:1
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
~1 John 4:9-10
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” ~Zephaniah 3:17
But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love. ~ Psalm 33:18
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 8:35, 37-39.
When I am struggling with fear or anxiety I'm learning to remind myself how much the Lord loves me, that He will never leave me, and that nothing can separate me from His love. I'm learning to allow the Scriptures that speak about His true nature to wash over me and take root in my heart. I'm realizing that His discipline is for my best, bringing my attention back to nurturing my relationship with Him. If you are struggling with fear or anxiety these days, I invite you to join me. Trust in His love, His goodness, His faithfulness. Remember, it's His love, not more faith on our part, that casts out fear.
Beth Marie Bearden gave her heart to Christ when she was a young teenager and soon after felt God calling her to ministry.