“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.” 1 John 4:18 ESV
Fear is defined as the unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. The key work here is ‘belief.” Our fears are based on what we believe. Then, if we take God at his word that says he loves us so much that he wouldn’t hold back his only son, we will not fear. If we believe nothing can separate us from the love of God, we will have peace even when facing death, or whatever kind of forces rise against us. If we are confident that God causes all things, even our heartaches and pain, to work out for good; we will not grow anxious and bitter when he takes our loved ones, our health or our livelihood away.
No matter what tragedy or sorrow assails us in this life, our eternity is secure in God’s loving hands. Oswald Chambers said it this way, “If you learn to live in the white light of Christ here and now, judgement finally will cause you to delight in the work of God in you.” Our confidence is in His relentless and continual love for us even when we are in the marsh of sin. He loves us to the point of death, and his love overcame sin’s legal demands and won our adoption into His heavenly adobe. “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” Romans 8:15
Without the genuine love of God, kindled in our hearts, the fear of death controls us. It robs us of any lasting peace and we seek the fleeting things of his world to pacify the anticipation of death and judgement. We might turn to medicine, food, shopping, work, ministry, relationships and a variety of other things as God substitutes. If we trust that our Lord is all wise and good in His appointment of our days, our spouses, our health and so on, we will joyfully say with Paul that to live is Christ and to die is gain.
The introduction of the fascinating story of Katherina and Martin Luther (The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk) opens with a scene of Luther’s death bed. We are told that Luther was away and wrote his wife a letter trying to persuade her not to worry about him, rather to trust God. “Luther urged Katharina to read the gospel of John and his own Small Catechism, and then joked, ‘For you prefer to worry about me instead of letting God worry, as if he were not almighty and could not create ten Doctor Martins, should the old one drown in the Saale, or burn in the oven, or perish…’” Luther went on to say, “’I have a caretaker who is better than you and all the angels,’ he consoled his wife, ‘he lies in the cradle and rests on a virgin’s bosom, and yet, nevertheless, he sits at the right hand of God, the almighty Father. Therefore, be at peace. Amen.’” This is advice we can all take to heart. By worrying, we leak a lack of faith in God’s perfect love. On the other hand, in our staradfastness, we can display God’s amazing grace and gripping love at work in our lives.