Perfect Love for Trying-To-Be-Perfect Fear

Last post, I talked about my fear of being imperfect. Even as I wrote that, I realized how much farther I have to go. A year ago, I could never have admitted how much I struggle with my own sin. I would (and did) hide the majority of my life from those I love.

The Lord has made large strides in my life. He has given me freedom I could have never imagined, and I am so thankful. But it is still a struggle. I often catch myself trying to cover up my brokenness with a façade.

But that is not Jesus in me. Jesus is real. My “togetherness” is not.

Jesus’ love isn’t dependent on how “together” I am. It just is. The I AM, who is self-existent and unchanging, cannot love any other way. He is not dependent on any creature for His existence, and so is His love not dependent on any creature for its existence.

In simplest terms: He is. He is love. Therefore, His love is.

My weaknesses don’t change His love.

Instead, God is perfect; therefore, His love is perfect.

The apostle John understood this love. If you read his books very much, you realize two things: Jesus loved John, and John couldn’t stop talking about it.

He writes in 1 John 4:18: “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.”

John says that God’s love is the solution for my fear. Failing terrifies me because I’m afraid of the consequences. I say to myself: “What will people think if I open up? What if I try something and screw up?” I’m looking for a punishment around every corner.

But perfect love means I don’t have to fear punishment. As Romans 8:1 reminds me, “There is . . . now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Jesus already took my punishment, so God isn’t going to punish me.

I don’t have to fear people either. They can hurt me, but what they do will not take God by surprise. He is sovereign – the ruler of all things – and He is my Father – the giver of good things. I can trust Him completely, even with the painful actions of others.

John continues, “whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” My fears reveal something about my heart. They show me areas that I haven’t allowed His love to penetrate.

My fear of imperfection is a barometer of how deep His perfect love has really affected me.

The areas of my life that are controlled by fear – they’re not God’s fault. They’re mine. In those moments that I fear punishment, it isn’t because His love has changed. It never will, but my response to it can.

When I do allow God’s perfect love to cast out my fear of failing:

Instead of forgetting the gospel, I remember it. I can preach the gospel to myself through reading God’s Word and rehearsing the Truth. But, I also need other people to help preach it to me. In times that I can’t see past my fears, I will go to a friend and say, “I’m struggling. Please tell me what is true.” Other times, I pick up a book or listen to a sermon to hear a mature exhortation. All of these together help me to remember God’s love.

Instead of believing lies, I take them captive with the truth of God’s Word. 2 Corinthians 10:3 says, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” This is a battle of the mind. My fears are not based in what’s true. When they come up, I have a choice. I can either believe the lie, or I can believe what God says to me in love and turn to Him for help.

Instead of trying to protect my reputation, I rejoice that the God who loves me will get glory. This is a hard one to believe sometimes. But as God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” The more I am weak, the more He has to and can do in and through me. When I trust that, I also can “boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Instead of being afraid to use the gifts God has given me, I yield to His right to use them. Perfect love means that God has created and redeemed me. He owns me. On top of that, anything I have is also His, and is given to me so that I can fulfill His calling on my life. When I trust His love enough to let Him make demands on what He has given me, it makes me bold.

Therefore, instead of missing opportunities to make an impact, I take Kingdom-focused risks. I can step out into the unknown as God lovingly leads me. And the joy of seeing Him fulfill His purposes through me can be mine in its fullest. Many through the ages have taken Spirit-prompted risks. For some, it meant martyrdom. For others, it meant losing everything. For yet others, it meant dying of old age with a fulfilling life behind. But all understood a perfect love that cast out their fears. And they were compelled by that love with a faith that knew no boundaries.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus . . .” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Will you join me?