The opposite of fear is not courage. That’s not to say that courage is uncalled for in fearful situations. But, the antidote to fear is not bushels of bravery. It is love. Read what St. John wrote a long time ago: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” – I John 5:15-19
Note John’s central point. God abides with us. It is His presence which affirms love. It is love which dispels our fears. The concept is not hard to understand. Every parent witnesses the power of love to soothe fears. A thunderous night storm chases children towards mom and dad’s bed for comfort. The storm remains but nestled by parental arms, their fears are reduced.
Our fears can be reduced as well. The fears I have in mind are the ones we harbour about our relationship with God Himself. We may question God’s mood towards us. We wonder if He will bless others but keep us at arm’s distance. We are afraid of being forgotten by grace. We tremble at the dangers around us and doubt whether God’s plan is big enough to handle all of them. Yes, we have more than enough fears to occupy us.
John is not suggesting that it is un-Christian to fear. He does say my fears indicate my understanding and experience of God’s love for me still has a way to go. I have not yet been perfected in love. There is room for me to grow! How? With faith. Perfect love chases away fear when I trust His love. It’s not easy to do. We are still children quaking at the sound of every danger. We see shadows of what could hurt us. Our imaginations run wild with fear leading the way. In those times, I don’t have to debate the likelihood of harm or do a risk analysis. I don’t pretend that the perils are smaller than they are. I need only focus on His love. And so I am reminded of a syllogism God whispered to me-
I cannot love whom I do not trust.
I cannot trust whom I do not know.
I cannot know whom I do not seek.
So seek Him. Know Him. Love Him. Receive His love. Fear not.