Plato reminded us: "Courage is knowing what NOT to fear." We all probably have those things that we are fearful of, don't we? Last night we had one of those horrendous dust storms with winds up to 70 mph and the many noises you hear when those gusts rip through your neighborhood can send your heart into palpitations! Thuds from pine cones and branches hitting the roof tops, clinks and clunks as small branches and leaves are driven into the windows at speeds that make them mini-missiles, and the noise of wind whipped lawn chairs skidding across the patio. Add to this excitement the timing of the storm at well after bedtime and you get the idea that sleep was not to come easily. Cell phone alerts blaring one out of slumber and then the horrific noise of those winds - my heart took a bit to return to normal rate and rhythm! Did I need to fear the storm? Not really, but I knew enough to appreciate the gravity of it. The yard would be left littered with all manner of debris and the roof stood a chance of shingle damage with that forceful of wind force. There was danger, but did I need to fear it? My house is built well, the trees are kept trimmed, and the things in the yard were fairly well secured. So, not really. Knowing what NOT to fear is most important, isn't it? So many times we think about what we should fear and forget about what we don't need to fear!
God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. (I John 4:18)
There is no room in love for fear - God is love, therefore if we are in him and he dwells within us, love resides there, as well. There is no room for fear to exist because love exists there first and foremost. Let that one sink in a bit today - God is love, you are embraced in that love, saturated in his grace - therefore there is nothing we should fear because love dispels all fear! If you weren't aware - fear cripples - it paralyzes us. Maybe not physically, but emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. We don't want to step out or step up because we are bound by the fear's hold. Emotions get the best of us at times, don't they? How many times have your emotions left you in a place of feeling really silly when you come to the final realization what they told you to fear was not really something to be fearful of after all? I have to be honest here - my emotions have told me to fear many a relationship, opportunity, or challenge - only to come to the realization neither were to be feared at all. I 'bought into' the fear because it played upon my emotions. Fear has a way of doing that - it builds and builds until it consumes our every emotion.
God isn't going to let us 'reside' in fear. In fact, he provides a residence that is free of fear - his presence. Our 'standing' in this world changes the moment we say 'yes' to Jesus. Our stand against the things we had come to fear apart from Christ also changes at that moment in time. Will our emotions seek to convince us there are still things we should fear? You bet - because they haven't learned to trust God yet with the outcome of all things. This is why God tells us not to rely upon the heart's direction - it will hold onto unrealistic and unfounded fear way too long. He tells us to trust him - the feelings follow the faith of trust. That is probably the hardest lesson for us to learn in this lifetime - feelings follow faith, not the other way around. We want to 'feel' something is 'right' and 'good' before we engage in the pursuit of that thing. God oftentimes wants us to engage even when we aren't 100% sure - because he knows our faith is built when we take those steps forward into those places we aren't all that certain about yet.
Hope and despair are two opposed emotions. Hope suggests we aren't all that fearful of the next steps to take. Despair indicates we are a little less secure in our steps forward. We might even feel like our feet are planted in cement because the fear that is inherent in despair is really rooted in us believing we have lost all hope - there will be nothing good to come of any steps forward. Despair makes us want to give up - to not even try. God isn't concerned with our 'trying' though - he is concerned with us 'doing'. Hope directs us to 'do' even if the 'doing' is uncomfortable, venturing into areas that we haven't explored before with God. Know WHAT to fear - know WHEN to fear - know WHO to fear. We never fear God. We never fear his timing. We never fear the outcome because he is in control. He is our sustainer and our strength - our defender and the one who will cause us to stand, even when we aren't 100% sure about the next steps we are to take. Just sayin!