Whenever we feel afraid, it is a profound reminder of the frailty of humanity and the ill effects of sin in the world. No human who ever lived has been immune from feeling afraid at some point in his or her life. Because we live in a fallen world, our lives are filled with opportunities to be afraid. Sometimes our fears are very rational and lead us to make wise choices, such as choosing not to touch a hot stove out of fear of getting burned.
However, many times our fears are actually irrational and lead us to shy away from doing what we really were created to do. We don’t say what we know we should because we’re afraid of what others will think. We don’t take risks because we’re afraid of failure. We don’t reach out to help someone because the last time we did that we became hurt in the process. These irrational fears cause us to wall ourselves off and do whatever it takes to avoid getting hurt. Yet, no matter how hard we try not to get hurt, it is impossible to completely protect ourselves from getting hurt in this life.
How do we deal with pain? Recently, I was listening to a message by Pastor Kris Vallotton, and one of the things he said in that message was that when we say, “I’ll never let myself get hurt again,” we’re really saying, “I’ll never love again.”
I’ll never love again.
Have those words ever entered your mind?
In order for love to be love, it cannot be rooted in any kind of fear. If I am operating in perfect love, then there is no room for fear to have any kind of foothold or control in my life. You see, we often think that the opposite of love is hate. However, I would like to suggest that that isn’t really true. As I understand it, the opposite of love isn’t hate; the opposite love is fear. And fear is the breeding ground for hate. Fear is the root, and hate is the fruit.
The Scripture says it this way: “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, NIV). Any time we operate in a spirit of fear, it is a sign that, in that area of our lives, love has not yet been made perfect. Another passage states it this way: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). These two Scriptures seem to indicate that fear and love are direct and polar opposites. We weren’t created for fear. We were created to live in power. We were created to have a sound mind. We were created for love.
Let me show you how fear is the breeding ground for hate. I would venture to say that a vast majority of the reasons we hate something is because of our fear for that thing. For example, a student might hate school because he is afraid of failing. A wife might hate her abusive husband because she is afraid of the next abusive words he might say or the next abusive actions he might take. We hate getting sick because we are afraid of how sickness makes us feel.
The people who hate storms are the ones who are afraid of the destruction that might happen in the storm. The people who hate roller coasters are the ones who are afraid of how the ride will make them feel. But the people who love the storms and the rides are the ones who are not afraid of the potential outcomes.
Fear is a natural defense mechanism of our flesh that tells us to close ourselves off for our own protection. Because of this, fear prohibits us from feeling and showing love. Fear makes us resist vulnerability and instead cover ourselves up for our own protection. We see this pattern has existed from the beginning when Adam and Eve hid from God and covered themselves. Fear was the first result of sin entering the world. In Genesis 3:10, Adam said to God, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” It was out of this root of fear that men then began not only to fear God but also to hate Him. This fear and hatred toward God was an entirely different “fear” than the fear of the LORD that we are taught to show. This fear was not one of honor but one of terror. Our learned response to whatever terrorizes us is to show hatred in return.
So what, then, is our alternative? Jesus Himself told us, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). When we live in fear, we forget Who our Father is. But the more we fix our gaze on our Father, the more we will live from a place of love instead of fear.
First John 4:19 tells us, “We love Him because He first loved us.” Many have suggested that this verse can be interpreted as stating: “By loving us, God gave us a reason to love Him; therefore, we can choose to love Him in return.” While there is some validity to this statement, I like to look at this from a slightly different angle. When we say that we love Him because He first loved us, I see it this way: “The only way we are even capable of showing any kind of love to Him is because He first showed us how to love by loving us. He loved us when we were incapable of showing Him love.” Do you see the difference? We could never have loved God if He didn’t love us first.
My point is this: When sin entered the world, fear entered right with us. When fear came in, it robbed us of our ability to live from a place of love. We no longer were capable of loving God or loving one another. But in spite of our insufficiencies, the Lord saw fit to show love to us, and because of His love, He has once again made us capable of showing love and living a life of love.
Is love really love if it hasn’t been tested? Jesus did not just love us when we were perfect; He loved us when it hurt Him the most to do so. The price of love is often manifested in pain. Jesus’ love compelled Him to sacrifice His life for a people who hurt him and hated Him. It was one-sided love on His part. But because of His one-sided love, He opened the way for two-sided love to once again be restored between God and man. Jesus set the pattern for us. He loved us when we didn’t love Him, so we ought to love others when they don’t love us. It is for this reason that 1 John 4:16–17 says, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus” (NIV, emphasis added). The best way to be like Jesus in the world is to show unconditional love, even—or especially—when it hurts.
If we live our lives doing everything we can to avoid getting hurt, then we will live a life full of fear and severely void of love. When we love, we open ourselves to hurt. But the pain is worth it. We hurt because we love, but love is still worth it. True love hurts. But it hurts a lot less than living a life of hatred rooted in fear.
The next time you choose to show love and it gets thrown back in your face, make a conscious decision to keep loving anyway. Don’t set up walls so that no one can get in. Tear down the walls. Choose to love anyway. After all, you can’t go wrong with love. Tell me: Can you ever be too loving? Love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:7–8, NIV).
Don’t be a slave to fear. Be a child of Love.