My Journey through Fear, Part 1
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. 1 John 4:18
I would never have considered myself a fearful person, but storms have a way of unearthing what is hidden in us. Christa Black Gifford says, “If you are not anchored in the goodness of God you will lower your theology to match your pain.” Especially during dark seasons, we are susceptible to allowing our bad circumstances to erode our beliefs about God. This article is the first in a three-part series in which I share my own journey through fear. In this article, I start by showing how pursuing God’s love overthrows fear’s power in our lives.
A Fearful Mindset Distorts God
My own experience was that unexplained physical pain and anxiety brought me to a place of unrelenting doubt. I learned that doubt is the gatekeeper of fear. The more I questioned God’s integrity, the more I felt unsafe and insecure. As the pain worsened, my fears intensified. My mind ran like wildfire as I envisioned the worst-case health scenarios. I felt tormented and trapped in a horrible panic cycle. Because I viewed God through the lens of my pain, He appeared to be uncaring, angry, unpredictable, and passive. I judged God for unanswered prayers, and I held Him emotionally hostage. With my hope deferred, my heart became sick. But God challenged me one day and asked, “Do you really know me? Do you believe that I will do what I say I will do?”
In Mark 4, the disciples became fearful because a windstorm had started to shake their boat. They rebuked Jesus, saying, “Teacher do you not care that we are about to die?” Jesus’ response to them was, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith and confidence [in Me]?” Do you ever feel that God is “sleeping,” or ignoring you in your time of need? Fear is a symptom of a spiritual heart ailment. The root of fear can be traced to this: When we are afraid, it means that we do not know God as a good Father. Fear encompasses four main lies that twist the character of the Father: 1) God will not take care of me. 2) God does not love me. 3) God is unwilling to help me. 4) My circumstances are too far gone for God to intervene.
Protect Your Heart Connection
In the midst of pain and suffering, it’s important that we do not harden our hearts toward God. I believed fear’s counsel that God abandoned me, so I walled off my heart. One day when I was desperately searching for answers, the Lord interrupted my anxious thoughts and said, “You need to empty your soul.” God wanted me to unload my emotional baggage with Him. My heart was heavy. My mind was full. He wanted me to let go. Sometimes we just need to stop clutching our suitcases full of needs to free our hands to receive Him. Healing starts with breaking.
Engaging with God at the center of your pain is vital for restoring intimacy. When Gideon was afraid he felt the freedom to ask God the hard questions, like “Where were you when all this bad stuff was happening?” Your transparency gives God the opportunity to minister to you in your worst place. After I had cried out 18 months of burdens and worries, God softly said to me, “I’m still here. I got you.” He wanted to heal the root issue in my soul: distrust. It was not God who changed — it was me. I had expectations of God that were unfulfilled. I judged God for what I thought He should have done on my behalf. I repented. Though it’s tempting to protect your heart from God when you are disappointed, I encourage you to let Him touch the broken pieces of your soul. You will not be able to heal completely by ignoring areas of distrust.
“There’s no place I can go Your love won’t find me
No place I can hide that You don’t see
No place I could fall that Your love wouldn’t catch me.
You see it all. You see it all, through the eyes of love.”
-Amanda Cook, You Don’t Miss A Thing
Discover the Father’s Heart
If fear is the problem, the Father’s love is the antidote. 1 John 4:18 (NIV) says “Perfect love drives out fear.” Why? Because when we know we are truly loved we feel secure. When bad things happen that provoke fear, we must identify who our Dad is and who He is not. We must seek out His heartbeat for us. One night after feeling so lost and hopeless, I heard the Lord gently whisper to me, “Look for my heart in the dark.” I needed to let go of my poverty mindset that anticipated nothing good from my Father. This lie kept me from searching for Him.
Luke 11:9-10 encourages us that if we persistently seek, we will find God. If you look for God’s heart, you will encounter the Father’s goodness. Even in painful seasons, love remains the epicenter that motivates the Father to act. We cannot divorce God from love because He is love. God is not a thief who lies kills or destroys. God is a life giver, which means just like a good daddy, He wants His kids to flourish. In the darkest times, we need to believe God will only do the best towards us. God is the perfect relational Father. He consistently provides, fiercely loves, powerfully acts and passionately protects His kids. James 1:16-18 encourages us not to be deceived during trouble because God is not two-faced or inconsistent but is the source of all things perfect and good. Just because we feel pain, confusion or anxiety does not mean God has changed! We must trust that He is good all the time.
For you meet with him blessings of your goodness. Psalm 21:3 (NKJV)
One of the best seasons of my life was pregnancy. I was expectant. I was filled with so much hope because I anticipated something good to happen. What would happen if we approached God in the same way? I love the MSG version of Romans 8:15-17 which says, “This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” In fear mode, I dread God and my future. Fear stops me from living and compels me to dig an early grave for myself. But 1 John 4:18 says dread cannot exist in love because the Father’s perfect love casts out fear. In love, I expect the Father’s goodness to follow me even in my depths. We must cultivate a childlike faith that joyfully anticipates our Dad’s affectionate ways with us. Hope will break the chains of fear in your life.
In times of distress, remember that fear is a cloud of darkness that twists your perception of God. Challenge your doubts by digging deeper into the true nature of God. He is worthy of our trust. If you feel harassed by fear, I would love to meet with you and help you discover God’s heartbeat for you. To find out more about how Christian counseling can help you to move beyond fear, please contact me here.
“Fearful or Faith-full,” courtesy of Joshua Earle, unsplash.com; “Lamp to Guide,” all-free-download.com; “Love Conquors,” Wooden Hearts by George Hodan, publicdomainpictures.net, CC0 Public Domain License.