And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 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.I John 4:16-18 (NIV)
That phrase grabbed me this week. What does it mean to be perfected in love? I think there’s a key to understanding it in verse 16. This perfecting or completion happens when we KNOW and RELY on God’s love. This is something I am beginning to wake up to in my own life. God has been taking me from simply knowing to actually relying and truly believing in the love He has for me. Don’t misunderstand me — I’m not claiming my love is perfect. But He has shown me that His love is! It’s when I have felt more imperfect than ever that God has surprised me and kept showering me with His love. Performance based faith is subtle and destructive, and I’m so thankful God is taking me to a place in His sovereignty where I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He loves me. He loves ME!!! Not my performance. Not perfect track records. And this overwhelming love has shifted the entire foundation of my life.
The freedom and security that comes from knowing AND believing God loves you really stands in complete contrast to the crippling effects of fear in our lives. Like these verses say, perfect love drives away fear. What fears? Fear of punishment? Yes. But there are so many other fears too that incapacitate us and prevent us from being able to give and receive love as we ought to. Fear of losing control, which often causes us to tighten our strangling grip on life and loved ones. Fear of rejection, which all too often leads us to do the rejecting. Fear of failure. Fear of not getting our own way. Fear of change. Fear of the moral decay we see around us. Fear, fear, fear. Everywhere we look, it’s staring us wide-eyed in the face.
So can love really drive those fears away? Yes, but not just any love. That’s a job for PERFECT love! God’s love is like a tidal wave that completely overwhelms us. But one of the first things it does is knock out from under us anything else that we are standing on in our own strength. I think that’s why we so often experience the transformative power of His love when He meets us at our lowest, when we have come to realize that what we’ve built our lives on, our faith on, is crumbling, or we discover we’re just not strong enough to maintain our footing. We hold our breath, expecting humiliation, condemnation, waiting for the other shoe to drop, but He meets us instead with compassion. God loves to roll in at those moments and sweep us off our feet. Maybe because we are finally ready to stop trusting in our own efforts and start trusting Him completely. He delights to lavish His love on the broken and the fallen. He knows that when we have been forgiven much we will also love much. After spending time with our ear pressed hard to His beating heart of love, we are transformed and ready to trust Him with anything and everything! His love has unlocked our faith. And where there is faith there is no longer any room for fear.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus! Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free, rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me. Underneath me, all around me, is the current of thy love; leading onward, leading homeward, to thy glorious rest above. (S. Trevor Francis)