What are you most afraid of?
How you answer that question reveals an awful lot about your character. Sometimes I can tell easily how a person would answer by just watching and listening. For a couple of my good friends, I’ve even asked them. I like to know. It helps me understand them better, and I hope that maybe sometimes, because I know, I’ll be able to help them avoid or relieve their fears.
A while ago I decided to try and think carefully about what I feared most. The list I came up with is 5) spiders; 4) being misunderstood; 3) losing someone I love/heartbreak; 2) wasting my life/messing up; and 1) torture.
That last one must be some kind of irrational fear, because no one else I know seems to have the same cold dread of seeing someone tortured that I do. My only experience with this is in movies and TV shows, but I simply can’t stand it. I used to make my family forward through the scenes in the Pit of Despair in the Princess Bride long after my younger siblings could handle it. I still can’t really handle it, and I’ve had several people tell me they just don’t understand. I don’t understand how they can watch that stuff without flinching, but I guess that’s how irrational fears work.
Something that’s not on the list has been bothering me for a long time: the fear of God. The Bible states very clearly that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” in Proverbs 1:7. I want to find this knowledge, but I can’t seem to be ‘scared’ of God. Instead, I find myself marveling at His indescribable grace. I cling to Him because life and my inability to cope scare me, and I know His love is all I need. If anything, I’m scared of myself, but definitely not of mercy. Ashamed, maybe, but not fearful.
Too often I worry about what other people will think, and if they’ll misconstrue my words or my actions. Jesus said in Matthew chapter 10 that we shouldn’t fear those who can only kill the body. Rather, we should fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. I get the concept--don’t worry about what people think or what they’ll do to you. Instead, fear what God thinks of you and His judgement. In the end, that matters so much more than being misunderstood by people here on earth. God will never misunderstand or mistake His judgement. Knowing myself, if standing judgement were up to my own deeds that would not be a fact in my favor. I want to be free from all fears except the fear of God, but as Adam Young put it, “I’m scared to death that I’ll never be afraid”.
I asked a friend what they thought about this the other day. They answered that the Bible seems to be talking about a very different kind of fear. Sort of like how fearing the discipline of your parents is different from fearing spiders or things that go bump in the dark.
But the Bible also says “Don’t be afraid” over and over and over and over. 365 times, I’ve heard. And we’re told why in 1 John 4:16-18: “We know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement, because in this world we are like Him. 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.”
Life can be a scary sort of adventure sometimes. As I approach graduation from high school, more and more uncertainties about the future pop up and clamor to be worried about. But I know and rely on the love God has for me. I am by no definition perfect in love myself, but I’m committed to living my life in His love as much as I can, because perfect love drives out all fear. Looking ahead, I know that as Mumford and Sons beautifully phrased it, “There will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears. And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.”
God is Love. He will not break my heart, but dismiss all my earthly fears, leaving only the concern that I please and glorify Him.
I don’t need to fear being misunderstood. I don’t need to fear losing loved ones or heartbreak. I don’t need to fear wasting my life or messing up. God understands me completely. His love is perfect. And He has a plan.