John the apostle tells us that perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. That is in the context of God being love, and those living in love living in God and God in them. Mystical language, the reality which in some ways I’ve participated in as a Christian, but much of that experience seems elusive at best.
The reason being that for some reason most all of my Christian life, now spanning nearly three full decades, I’ve struggled with fear gripping my heart much of the time, and the experience of God’s love being intermittent for me at best. Yes, I’ve had especially one occasion I can remember, way back when, when God’s love was felt in an overwhelming way. It is not that I look for experiences. But I am only looking to see this passage fulfilled in my life.
Of course we can point to passages such as where Jesus tells his disciples and us that if anyone loves him they will keep/obey his commandments. And he will love them, and will make his presence known to them. And I think of Paul’s prayer in Ephesians, that the believers there would have power together from God, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love which surpasses knowledge, that they may be filled to all the fullness of God.
Do we know this love not just in our heads, but in our hearts? I know Christ does indeed dwell in my heart through faith. I do think I am being rooted and grounded in love, so that I can join in what Paul prays for. However it is and has been for so long, an ongoing struggle for me.
It is not that I look for the experience. We indeed are to look to the Lord, to seek him. And we are to be committed to following him daily in all of life, in his community, and in mission to the world.
Just the same, I long to know this perfect love in my own heart. That is my prayer. I know it is a prayer that is according to God’s will, and so I know God will answer it. So I hang in there by faith.
What are your thoughts and experience? Is God’s love an experience which for you casts out fear?