By Josh Gordon
I've learned that kids are amazing recorders of information, but they're really bad interpreters of information. In my childhood, I would read the Bible but only the interesting parts like Judges where there were wars, killings and armies. My little kid brain soaked up all these great stories but I began to draw warped conclusions from them. One of them being that God is a great friend until you let Him down. If you do, then watch your back, just like how the children of Israel had to, because God will send the enemy armies to put you into slavery until you repent. If you toed the line, God would swoop in to save the day and hand out rewards.
The Old Testament story that terrified me the most was Job. This guy had it all; a great house, awesome family, a successful business… Then God allowed Satan to destroy it all in a day. That story TERRIFIED me, and sunk deep into my subconscious. I didn’t see it at the time, but a deep fear was planted. What if God did that to ME? So as a result of this, I lived a lot of my childhood, and subsequent adult life, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I was afraid of letting people down and letting God down.
Fear and anxiety began to characterize my life - even up until recently. In response, Father brought me to this: “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. We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:18 (NASB) For the first time recently, I read this passage with complete understanding. Living with fear and anxiety throughout my whole life was linked to my concept of God. I was fearful about things in my life because I was ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’. This passage brought to light the concept of God that I developed in my childhood. This pseudo-reality where God was going to step back and allow my world to collapse because of something that I didn't do well. For me, the lie was that bad things are gonna happen in my life because it's punishment from God. It revealed that I actually believed I'm truly alone and that God is my ally only as long as I'm pleasing Him - which is not true.
As a believer, I am in Christ and Christ is in me. That transformation was not dependent on my ability but it was the gift of God through faith. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8 (NASB) In other words, God with me was not and is not dependent on my performance. He is not going anywhere, and there is no fear of condemnation. “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 (NASB)
The fact of the matter is, terrible things do happen but I am absolutely 100% not alone and God is with me.
When I realized that the fear of punishment is not a characterization of my relationship with God then I realized that fear is something that happens when there's an area where I'm not experiencing God's perfect love that casts out fear!
The more I experience Father's love, the less fear can impact me. God knows that my capacity to receive and experience His perfect love is as limited as my own willingness to trust Him with my well-being and my external safety. God is committed to proving that love to me, in the midst of my fear, too.
Father helped me to see that fear and anxiety were also linked to my poor concept of myself. 2 Timothy 1:7 (NASB) says, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and discipline.” I don’t have a spirit or nature that is fearful. That’s not what God gave me. That's not the real me.
The real ‘me’ has a spirit of power, love and self-control. I am in Christ and abiding in God’s love is my natural resting place. That's my default setting.
My identity, which was fearful and anxious, was crucified on the Cross of Christ and was buried. That's the truth of the matter. For me to feel fear is natural, but fear can be persuasive and could lead me to believe the lie that God has abandoned me or that I am naturally a fearful person.
So the natural next question is: how can I avoid the persuasions of fear? Well, if perfect love casts out fear of punishment and I am not the generator of that love, then I only need to receive His love. It is His job to love us and our job to receive it. God is saying to me, let Me prove it to you. I don’t even have to try and figure it out. I just need to look for His love in the midst of fear and trust in His presence with me.
To a kid who grew up terrified of getting it wrong and earning divine wrath, this is amazing! Now, I suddenly see Father the way He truly is! I see Him weeping with me through my pain, I see Him cradling my heart, and calming my panicked nerves. This is who He is, pure Love, who won’t let go.