1 John 4:18 NIV: 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.
“The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
I have never understood this verse. But, I am learning to. And what I am learning is that if I am feeling fearful and anxious, then I have not been made perfect in love. In other words, I don’t understand (or, perhaps, I don’t believe) just how much I am loved. And I’m not even talking about how much my husband loves me, or how much my daughter adores who I am. Their love, although wonderful and gladly accepted, is flawed and limited because they are human. As I am human.
But, I am talking about God.
God loves me so much that I need never fear.
I need to be in awe of Him, and I need to respect Him, and I need to bear in mind that He can destroy both the body and the soul, but a trembling, puddle of fear that gets me nowhere except to be in bondage to toxic thoughts and desires? That is not what God wants from us; it is not His gift to us – His gift is power (authority), love (acceptance) and a sound mind (assurance).
True intimacy with our Father comes from knowing that we are completely, and truly, and amazingly loved – from the very depths of our souls, to the very ends of who we are as people – God loves us. And when we accept that, and begin to understand (not that we can ever truly grasp just how intimately God loves us), then – and only then – do we begin to transcend fear and to live lives victorious in love.
Because, we are loved.
I never understood this verse because I believed I knew I was loved. But there was always that shadow of doubt – deep within my psyche, deep within my soul – where I believed that no-one could truly love me. I was un-lovable. Who would want to love me? Therefore I could not be accepted. Therefore I walked in fear and anxiety, because I could never truly be myself. I had to hide myself away; I was ashamed of who I was, where I came from…
But, with God – there is no shame. He sees all, He knows all, and He loves. And as I am pondering these thoughts, and realising that I don’t truly know what love is, because if I did I wouldn’t battle with anxiety and fear, I come across two readings I would like to share with you. Readings that confirmed that God was speaking to me and that instead of focusing on fear, I need to focus on accepting that I am loved. By my God, and by my husband, daughter and many others in my life.
We may wish to be loving—to be kind and helpful in our relations to those near us. But we do not trust love, and we think it could easily ruin our carefully guarded hold on life. We are frightened of the world we are in, and that makes us angry and hostile, and contempt makes it easier to harm or disregard the good of others. So the world boils with contempt. The more refined the human setting, the more fine-tuned the contempt. You don’t have to know that God exists and that Jesus is for real to know that love is the good and the right for human beings. It takes little intelligence to know that to live in love is the morally good and right way to live. But entering into and growing in love—actually being it and doing it in the context of real life—is quote another matter. Many misunderstandings of what love is has to be worked through before one can come to peace in it. Evil has a vested interest in confusing and distorting love. Above all, one has to find by thought and experience that love can be trusted as a way of life. This can be learned by interaction with Jesus in all ordinary and extraordinary circumstances. He can bring it to pass that we rely on love; and that is why he boldly asserted that the only mark of being his student or apprentice in life was how his students love one another (John 13:35). And it is, again, why one of his best students could say, on the basis of a lifetime of experience: “Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). Love is not God, but God is love. It is who he is, his very identity. And our world under a God like that is a place where it is safe to do and be what is good and what is right. Living in love as Jesus defines it by his words and deeds is the sure to know Christ in the modern world. Excerpted from Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge by Dallas Willard. Emphasis mine.
Although I am not familiar with Dallas Willard’s work, I could not even begin to more accurately describe learning to live in love the way he does here.
…one has to find by thought and experience that love can be trusted as a way of life…
Even though we don’t understand everything about God, that doesn’t prevent us from trusting Him. He has proven His love for us. The apostle Paul wrote, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Trusting that love, we can walk with Him even when life doesn’t make sense. —Bill Crowder Emphasis mine
So, I know where I need to focus on – realising that no matter how bad my mood, or our dire our financial situation, or how extreme my anxiety, or how hectic our lives – I am loved.
I. Am. Loved.
I am loved. Truly and honestly and deeply loved.
Therefore, I need not fear – I can be at peace and I can be myself. I don’t need to hide myself away, or be ashamed, or be afraid – I can walk out my life with authority, with acceptance and with assurance.
And then – and this is only the beginning – but then I can learn to accept love from others. And learn how to truly love them in return.
It’s a long walk ahead.
But, I am excited because if I truly love – then I am a child of God.
MY WORD FOR THE YEAR – 2016 / Intimacy – Time / Intimacy – Climbing a Wall / Intimacy – that one move! / Intimacy – Talking / Intimacy – Saying Sorry! / Intimacy – that one word / Intimacy – touch / Intimacy – those awkward moments / Intimacy – a sacrament… / Intimacy – Resting / Intimacy – Seven Red Flags / Intimacy – being separate / Intimacy – Never Giving Up / Intimacy – Honour / Intimacy – God / Intimacy – A new day… / Intimacy – Being True / Intimacy – Changing You / Intimacy – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly / Intimacy – Letting go of Fear / Intimacy – Rest / Intimacy – Knowing / Intimacy – A Gift / Intimacy – healing / Intimacy – Cleaving