I struggle with fear. I am often afraid. I don’t have the anxiety that 40 million American adults battle--a chemical imbalance in the brain, a disorder brought about by trauma or an inherited condition—nope, I’m just a scaredy cat.
Most of my friends wouldn’t know this about me because I do scary things. I moved out of one country and halfway across the next. I started over when I was 25 years old and again in my early thirties. My husband and I care for the children of people addicted to things and those in recovery. Scariest of all, we have teenagers—one of them even drives.
I dread having a life that lacks purpose and legacy. I don’t want to live for vacations and greater luxury. I don’t want to live vicariously through movie-stars or influencers but be influenced by God, the star-maker and experience satisfaction in Him.
So greater fear quells the lesser. Fear of life that lacks purpose motivates me to seek purposeful endeavors that often involve risk.
But it’s still fear. And since fear isn’t the antidote for fear, every once in a while, I get caught in my own snare.
There’s a scene in Matthew’s Gospel where a storm swirls on the Sea of Galilee and it rages with such ferocity that seasoned fisherman fear for their lives. Save us! We are perishing.
(Firstly, what a perfect request.)
Jesus who had been sleeping peacefully during the storm—speaks peace to the storm: Shalom.
Then he speaks faith to his friends, “Why are you afraid, O’ you of little faith?”
And from Jesus we learn, faith is an antidote to fear. Not necessarily faith that the storm won’t be fatal or disastrous but that it submits to the voice of God and will do no more or less that He has purposed. It’s not really the storm that has life or death power—but God, and through Jesus He’s our father and friend.
That’s good news.
Faith in God becomes fertile ground for love of God from which all manner of wonder flows.
“Beloved, let us love one another for love is from God and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who doesn’t love doesn’t know God because God is love. In this, the love of God was made manifest among us: God sent his only Son into the world that we might live through him. There is no fear in love because perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:7-9, 18)
If it’s true that “perfect love casts out fear” then the opposite is also true, fear casts out love.
Fear banishes love. Perhaps, as others have suggested, it isn't hate but fear that is the antithesis of love.
One afternoon, quite unexpectedly, I got a call from our foster care agency. We’re going on our 6th year with an active license and though we’ve done a little respite care, we haven’t taken a placement for a long time. This request was worth the wait as it was more intense than ever before.
Could we take an infant with an extensive medical history? We’d need to receive training from the hospital, add a lot more driving and extra appointments to the calendar. All this on top of the reality that babies generally require a great deal of care. Our agency was gracious, but they needed an answer as soon as possible—a team of health care professionals and social workers were waiting.
I was simply driving from one place to another when this “storm,” this emotional crisis, came upon me. It was a crisis because I knew the reasons we should do it, and the reasons we shouldn’t. We have five other children whose lives and needs stretch the course of the day. Would I be up all night? Could I care for someone so little, so fragile with so many extraneous appointments? I honestly didn’t know.
Here’s the faith part. We prayed. And asked close friends pray. I didn’t want anyone’s opinion or a pros and cons list—because I didn’t want anyone influencing me who wasn’t in the Spirit. I wanted to hear from God. Because I knew it would take God to do it well.
My husband and I prayed and went to bed. I woke up a little after midnight, twisting and turning this idea in my mind. I couldn’t just say no. I couldn’t just say yes. Jesus’ disciples felt they were perishing in their storm—I was paralyzed by mine.
And there’s one thing that paralyzes my mind like that. Fear.
In my inner room, sometime before dawn as I was meditating and interrogating myself (medinterrogation—where you think and ask yourself questions!) the Spirit led me to the right question.
What would your answer be if you weren’t afraid?
If I wasn’t afraid? I was terrified of a glass baby with a litany of unique needs. I was desperately afraid of not meeting the needs of my husband and children and incurring resentment. I was fearful of lost sleep, an interrupted schedule and no quiet time for myself. Fearful of taking on too much and not doing well by anyone.
But if I wasn’t afraid? If I was confident that Jesus was in the boat with me, with us? In an instant, faith spoke shalom to the storm in my mind.
Yes. We’re in! We can’t wait!
Dang. Is fear really that blinding? Paralyzing?
If perfect love casts out fear the opposite is also true, fear casts out love. My fear of failure, loss, interruption, uncertainty was inhibiting love. God was calling our family to love another family and fear was standing in the way.
I knew the next step.
Every foster parent who’s crawled through the trenches has encountered non-foster parents who confidently assert their desire to foster only they are impeded by their profound love which (ironically) prohibits them from fostering. “Oh, I love so big and it would hurt to give them back—so I won’t do it at all.”
Maybe they’re paralyzed by fear too?
Here’s what I knew to do. I prayed for love. Big, swelling, comprehensive, stay-up-late, get-up-early love. Brave love. I prayed that “other’s love” would surpass self-love in my heart. I needed more love than I currently had access to. New love. Fresh love.
I don’t naturally love big, I love selfishly small and to care for this child I knew I needed divine help. Since God is love and God manifested that love by sending Jesus to calm storms (among other things), I prayed for love to foster a baby.
I prayed for love.
And it came. Like a whisper. Like thunder.
That love was power! We received the required medical training. Made every appointment. Our family pulled together and we learned to care for Baby like we were born for the task. We prayed for and befriended the birth family during our time together.
And then, as quickly as the storm appeared, it subsided. We got to return this bundle to a hopeful mother and a gentle father.
The child we spent hours deliberating over was the child we didn’t want to leave. Isn’t that funny?
Baby’s gone now and doing well with family. A few days after the departure I found a tiny sock under a chair—this little one preferred to keep one sock on and kick the other off. In curling cursive, the word "love" decorated the cuff.
It made my eyes sting and it made me smile.
Faith is an antidote fear but love--the kind of love that God is, well that kind of love devours fear for breakfast.
This isn’t to say I’m not still a scaredy cat or that you should stop taking meds if that’s how the Spirit has led you. I don’t even mean to imply that all fears are all bad—the right kind of fear saves (Proverbs 1:7). I just want to encourage you to be aware. Fear can dampen faith and quell love. Don't let it.
Fear is impatient and harsh. Love is patient and kind.
Insecurity is envious and boastful. Love prefers humility.
Selfishness is irritable and resentful. Love is neither.
Jealousy rejoices at other’s failures. Love rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
And of the triple-ingredient antidote: faith, hope and love, the greatest is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:4-13)
"Lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles and run with endurance the race set before you. "