These are some thoughts I recently shared with a friend.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. – 1 John 4:16-18
From the time I was very young I had a fear of death and dying, and genuinely believed (feared) that I was going to die somehow at a young age – before I was 30, or definitely by the time I was 40. So here I am at 51 and alive and kicking! I wouldn’t have believed it as a child. But God is our protector, and He’s been so faithful in watching over me and protecting me, even from myself, since I can be my own worst enemy sometimes.
I’ve been through numerous situations in my life in which I feared I was going to die. Most of them were irrational, but they seemed real enough at the time, and so they were still very real fears I had to overcome, even if only in my mind and heart. I think God used each of those situations to bring me to a point of surrender and trust, to the place in which I learn not to love my life in this world so much, but to love God more, and to trust him. God used those times to bring me closer to the point where I’m able to say with Paul “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21) and with Job “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
Psalm 34:4 says
he delivered me from all my fears.
I’ve taken that to mean not just that God delivered me from the things I was afraid of, but he even delivered me from the fears themselves. This is true of my life; over the years God has delivered me from so many fears. I still have fears that need to be overcome, but I’m confident that God is still at work delivering me from those as well.
A passage I’ve come back to over and over again when dealing with fears in my life is 1 John 4:16-18
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (emphasis added)
I can’t say I’ve fully come to understand or appropriate these verses, but I keep coming back to them when I fear. John says the root of all our fears is a fear that God is going to punish us. Deep down we know we deserve to be punished because of our sins. But elsewhere John reminds us that “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous [one]. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins….” (1 John 2:1-2). That word “propitiation” means that Jesus took all the punishment and wrath we deserved for our sins upon Himself. So the punishment for our wrongdoing has already been completely taken care of.
That means we don’t ever have to be afraid of being punished by God anymore! “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). So 1 John 4:18 invites us to become more deeply rooted and grounded in the love of God. He says this is the way we overcome fear.
Psalm 91 is also a good scripture passage to meditate on when dealing with fears of death or harm coming to us. It’s all about how God invites us to dwell in “the secret place” with him, and that as we do so we enter into a place of protection with Him. The psalm is filled with all kinds of promises of protection for the believer.