Text: 1 John 4:1-19, 1 Peter 2:1-3, John 15:18-21, Psalm 36:1-12
It happened every night, first at 1:27am and then again at 4:02. A low warning whistle would signal its arrival, followed by a roaring screech that thundered through our sleeping city, only waking me. Its rumble traveled from a cracked window to the front door to my bedpost, then disappeared as quickly as it came.
That train on nearby tracks opened my eyes to the darkness. I’d seen the sky turn black before going to bed, of course, but I hadn’t felt it. Suddenly, I was hyperaware that at any moment, my safe foundation could be shaken and destroyed. There, in my bed with white sheets and a black headboard, I began a countdown to sunrise, staying awake to prevent the darkness from swallowing me.
Each morning, I’d attribute my sleepy eyes to the train, but each night, I’d remember it was fear.
I began recognizing minor details as “warning” signs—ambulance sirens, missed calls, late arrivals—and became sure something dubious was headed my way. I didn’t know what that something was, but I knew its tracks were headed in my direction.
Fear is ominous and undefined in both feeling and concept. There are times I know exactly what I’m afraid of, and others when I’m just plain afraid. Many a night I’d sit up on those white bed sheets, Bible open on my lap, wrestling with anxiety. Over and over again, I ran into the same command: “do not fear.” It appears generously throughout God’s Word, yet I’d never come across a concrete definition of “fear” by itself.
What reason do we have to not fear? When the walls begin to shake and the darkness closes in, how exactly do we just “not fear”?
When the train began to rumble into town, I wasn’t sure how to put the brakes on my fear—but I knew I could turn on the lights. Reaching over to turn on the lamp on my bedside table somehow illuminated my confidence enough to step out of bed and look outside. From my window, the streets lights glowed and the train’s headlights shone in the darkness.
I wonder if this is why fear isn’t clearly defined in the Bible—because it cannot stand alone. To really know it, we must turn on the lights.
In this case, His light.
“In Your light we will see light” (Psalm 36:9).
To know Him, we must remember His love.
“The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7).
And when we know His love, we know what it is not.
“There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment” (1 John 4:18).
“Perfect love drives out fear.” I’ve always read that verse in the context of my loving relationships, but what if we could also believe it in the context of our worst fears? If God is love and there is no fear in love, then there is no fear in God. And because we are from God, He leaves the lights on for us. Held to the standard of God’s perfect love, fears don’t stand a chance.
Maybe trying not to fear isn’t so impossible if it it sends us searching for the light (John 8:12). May we always hold up pieces of darkness to the brilliance of His love.
“You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
-1 John 4:4