God is love - 1 John 4:16
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear - 1 John 4:18
These scriptures obviously let us know two things: first, and foremost, that God is love and His love trumps fear. Secondly, since God IS Love, and Love’s very presence banishes fear, it serves to reason that wherever fear is, God isn't! This is not talking about the Fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). That fear of the Lord could just as easily be translated as the Reverence of the Lord. The word "fear" used in 1 John above could be translated as alarm or fright. That definition of fear is what I’m talking about here. It's the same kind of fear/alarm/fright that is currently traveling around the world because of the Corona virus.
In my experience, I've come to realize that most Christians don't have a fear of death, it's the process of dying that is frightful. People who are pre-Christians should be afraid of death. After all, look where they are headed if they don't give themselves without reservation to Jesus and His Lordship.
But what do we do about 1 John 2:15 which says, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." Taking the whole of scripture and the entire book of 1 John in context, it doesn't mean that if we have fear/alarm/fright, we aren't a true believer in Jesus. It "just" means there is a portion of us, however deeply buried inside it may be, that isn't fully yielded to His Lordship. So how do we root it out and deal with it?
This is my answer to this question. Simplistic or naïve? Yes! But its worked well for me and for those who've followed my advice. It involves embracing your fears, walking into them head-on. Stepping back and taking an over-arching perspective. Even going so far as to carry the thing you fear to its worst possible conclusion and then some. Let me give you a couple of stories that explain what I’m talking about.
Back in the 1970s, I attended a Bill Gothard seminar. One of the stories he told was about a woman who needed to quit work for health reasons. She had an adult son living with her but he was irresponsible, selfish, and wouldn't get a job to help with their expenses. Consequently, they were going through her savings while she was getting sicker and more worn out. She went to Gothard for advice as to how to get her son to take responsibility. He told her to quit her job. "But where will we get money to live on?" she wailed. "We'd starve to death." "Well, Gothard responded, "Let's look at that fear. You quit your job. You run out of money and out of food. The first few months could be a wonderful fast unto the Lord, during which you'd pray and receive wonderful insights from the Lord. Eventually, you'd die and find yourself in the arms of your Beloved Savior. Isn't that wonderful?"
The lady got the message. Gothard had basically shown her how to walk into her fear by imagining herself as a spiritual giant with nothing but victory ahead. She went home and quit her job. When her son realized that the cupboards were almost bare and bills weren't being paid, he stormed, "What are you going to do about it?" She very calmly replied, "Nothing. I guess we'll just starve to death." After days of getting the same answer, the son went out, got a job and began taking care of himself and his mother.
I listened to this story and took it to heart. When I'd feel fear creeping in, I'd figure out what the unknown was that had alarmed me and then use my imagination. I wasn't afraid of dying as I knew the Lord and I'd already had three occasions when I almost did die. Then a few events happened in the world that the media fanned to sell newspapers and create great fear across the nation.
This story is really crazy but stick with me.
We ended the 1970s with several plane hijackings. I had the opportunity to fly to Mexico City to meet my sister who had lived in Mexico for a year and wanted to show me around. But even friends, who should have known better, tried to dissuade me from going out of fear of the plane being hijacked. I took Gothard's advice and walked into that fear. Using my imagination that I was "Little Miss Super-Saint," I visualized myself on the plane flying at 35,000 feet. Suddenly, several men jumped out of their seats and began to brandish big, long, scary firearms. While some of the men walked the isles, a couple others stormed the cockpit and took over the controls. People screamed. Some passed out. Sitting there as Little Miss Super Saint, I prayed, then began to sing worship songs. Gradually others began to join me. Finally, a hijacker pointed his gun at me and told me to stop. Beautifully composed, I responded, "I must obey God rather than man" (Acts 5:29). And went back to singing. Emboldened, even more people joined in the hymn-sing.
The hijackers backed off as the plane filled with peace and worship to the One True God. They became frustrated, then confused. After a considerable time, they broke down and asked, "Who is this God you're singing about?" One by one, they began to meet the God who is greater than the one they'd been worshipping. So did a lot of pew-sitters among the passengers.
Of course, the pilot had already notified air traffic control that we wouldn't be landing in Mexico City and why. They, in turn had alerted the authorities and, of course, the news media. Our situation was broadcast all around the world. But after the hijackers met the Lord, they allowed the pilot to land the plane at the nearest airport. Of course, we were met by all kinds of law enforcement expecting a possible shoot-out. But it wasn't the OK Corral. The hijackers meekly exited the plane with their hands in the air. The lead man made a break for a news camera. The other news cameras crowded around to get this phenomenal scoop. In the face of the international media, he uttered a truly heart-felt apology to the families and loved ones of we who had been on the plane. He went on to tell why they had a change of heart - he'd met the Lord Jesus Christ and he'd made him his Savior and Lord. And the gospel message went out to the whole listening world.
By the time I "lived" this scenario in my imagination, walking through my fear, when I got on that plane to Mexico City, I was hoping we'd be hijacked because of all the people who would see a demonstration of the gospel.
In the early 1980s I had the opportunity to fly somewhere else. I don't remember where or why. It would be a trip without my husband which was very rare (at that time) because I was a stay-at-home mom working in church volunteer positions. My focus was the Lord, my family and our church. At that time there had been bombs on airplanes which my husband teased me about. But by this time I was so used to walking into fear, I wasn't fazed. I simply responded, "Oh, what a quick and painless way to get into heaven!"
Am I saying that I never experience a moment of fear or anxiety? Absolutely not! From time to time things fly under my radar and catch me by surprise and momentarily rock my world. But as soon as possible, I regain my perspective and employ the technique described above, confront the unrest and reestablish my peace.
So, whatever you're fearful about, go ahead and imagine what it would be like if the thing you fear actually happened. But remember, as you imagine yourself in the situation, BE SURE TO picture yourself as "Miss or Mr. Super Saint." You do and say everything that would emulate the behavior of Paul and Silas when they were wrongfully imprisoned (Acts 16:25). Imagine yourself doing and saying whatever furthers the Kingdom of God with signs and wonders following. And there's NO FEAR.
He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4b).
Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment;
because as He is, so are we in this world (1 John 4:17)