“How has the enemy used fear against you in your life?”
The small group leader’s question took a minute to sink in. As person after person in the group shared their fears and how they’d been affected by them, I contemplated my own fears.
In high school and into my early 20’s, fear of rejection and what others thought of me steered me further and further away from God’s plan for my life. I wanted to be accepted. To the point that I compromised my values and self-worth in pursuit of “love.”
But that was a long time ago. I don’t live there anymore.
As many women do, I have waffled between a fear of not being enough and the fear that I am too much. I’m not enough because every day I fall short of the glory of God. I’m imperfect. On other days, I’m too much. Too loud. Too opinionated. Too silly or too serious.
But thanks to a strong group of sisters around me, I have learned that I am not alone. More importantly, I am a daughter of the Most High King. The Creator made me “just right,” as Goldilocks would say.
As a mom, I have often feared that I am failing. Surely I’m a terrible parent. I lose my cool. I say the wrong things. I react. I’ve read a hundred (seriously more like 94, but who’s counting?) parenting books and talked to every mom I know. And while they all disagree on many topics, the one thing I hear loud and clear is that if I love my children and consistently try to be a better parent, I’m on the right track.
As I processed through these fears I have battled over the years, one of the members spoke up, “I’d like to share about a fear that I am currently facing…” He proceeded to be courageously vulnerable as he shared his fear. Then it hit me: My current and recurring fear. That ugly thing that has stayed just below the surface of consciousness yet always manages to control my decisions.
I am afraid of repeating my mistakes. More specifically, for the last 6 years, I have been afraid of ending up in an abusive relationship again.
I’ve subconsciously kept myself closed off to any long term relationship for fear of being hurt. It hasn’t even been a conscious thought. It’s just a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. If I base my judgement off my past experience alone, I am left feeling nauseous at the prospect of another ride on the roller coaster of abuse. Because all I have known in relationships is abuse and unhealthy behavior. The fairy tale image we’re told as children (though equally damaging) has been completely erased. All hope of a “happily ever after” ending has dissolved.
The revelation of this fear came to me the other day as I shared my story with a girlfriend. I told her that I had recently read an article that said something along the line of, “If you’re not attracting good men [healthy relationships] into your life, it’s because subconsciously, you are not open to love.” The article went on to explain the different reasons we slam the door on love.
Fear is a big one. For all the fears previously stated, I have been sending a “don’t you dare even look at me” signal to the world without even realizing it. Fear of being vulnerable and getting hurt. Fear of rejection. Fear that any prospective partner will see me failing at parenting and bolt. Fear of abuse. Fear of failure. Every relationship has failed thus far. Why would it be any different the next time?
In our small group, we discussed what fear really is. Sometimes our fears aren’t even real, but rather, scenarios we’ve created in our minds. Lies that the enemy has fed us and we’ve adopted as reality.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18
The leader then read 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter. He posed the question: “What is the opposite of love?” Many of us responded, “Fear!” Wrong. He said, “No. The opposite of love is selfishness.”
Let that sink in. Perfect love is selfless in every way. It’s trusting, kind, not boastful, not envious, and so on. Conversely, fear is rooted in self-preservation. When we go through life thinking we “gotta look out for number one,” we become guarded, fearful, angry. Truly selfless love cannot operate under those conditions.
God’s love is perfect. Every good and perfect thing comes from Him. So if I’m allowing fear to control me, I’m not only blocking an opportunity for a good relationship, I’m blocking God’s selfless love from doing its perfect work in me. Moreover, my fear is only indicative of my lack of faith that God will come through.
If I truly believe that my loving Heavenly Father is working all things together for my good, then I have nothing to fear. He is cultivating me to be a wife just as he is preparing my future husband for me. I have to trust that. I have to trust HIM. God does not want to withhold any good from me (or you) and that includes a godly spouse and healthy marriage.
So tonight, I boldly cast my cares [worry, fear, doubt] upon the Lord for He cares for me and wants only the best for His children. And I declare, “I am open to love in your timing, God.”
I challenge you to do the same. Whatever you’re afraid of, let it go. Give it to God and trust that He has your best interest in mind.