For most of my life I thought that the opposite of fear was bravery or courage. It seems to make sense: brave people have less fear than the rest of us wimps. What makes sense from a human perspective may not be what God wants us to know.
In 1st John 4:16-21, we see the opposite, or antidote, to fear from God’s point of view:
4:16 We know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and he who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. 4:17 In this love has been made perfect among us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as he is, even so are we in this world. 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has punishment. He who fears is not made perfect in love. 4:19 We love him, because he first loved us. 4:20 If a man says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who doesn’t love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 4:21 This commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should also love his brother. [WEB]
Now we see that courage is not the opposite of fear. LOVE is the opposite of fear! How does that make sense? What’s the difference between courage and Love?
Courage is an internal feeling I have that gives me the ability to do things that other fearful people cannot or will not do. Notice all of the “me” related words in that sentence: internal, I, me, other. Courage is too closely related to pride to be something that God would want for us. Courage is something that “I” create. “Love” is something that God alone creates.
Love is a gift from God that connects me to him and to the people in my sphere of influence. When I recognize the depth of love God has for me it is easier to overcome the things that once caused me to be afraid. When I am connected to God through this love, I am the beneficiary of His power. When I am connected by love to the people around me, I am the beneficiary of their love and support as well.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear. . . .” To the degree that I am fearful, my ability to love and be loved is limited. How do I change it? Humble myself before God and ask Him to make me a more loving and lovable creature.
You gotta know this passage because it will change the way you love, the way you are loved, and the way you face the fears and challenges this world will surely send your way.
J. Brent Eaton