Anxiety has plagued me for most of my life. It used to be much worse: I struggled with an anxiety disorder for decades, which caused me to have panic attacks regularly. I cannot remember the last time I had a panic attack, so I have certainly progressed. However, anxiety continues to be an issue for me.
I have been praying about what I am doing “wrong,” and God led me to this verse:
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 have always struggled with this verse because I don’t perceive what I am fearing as “punishment.” The root of my fear is other people harming me, and that comes from a childhood of abuse, where authority figures had the power to inflict much harm. I do not view the child abuse as “punishment” so much as simply evil.
Looking at the context of the entire passage, the focus is on love – God’s love for us, our love for God, and our love for other people. It sounds like love and fear are incompatible, so where I have a fear problem (anxiety), I have a love problem. I know that God loves me, and yet I fear (experience anxiety). How specifically does love drive out fear?
Multiple passages in the Bible tell us not to fear. The reason provided for not fearing is that God is with us:
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~ Is. 41:10
I know that God is always with me, but do I really believe it? If I did, wouldn’t that drive out the fear? And then where does love tie into this?
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking frightened. Courtesy Bitmoji.]