By Kevin Howell
For much of my life, I’ve dealt with fear. Fear of the dark, fear of rejection, fear of hell, fear of failure. It wasn’t just a part of my life, it was a part of my personality. It was as much a characteristic of mine as my height, skin color, and blood type.
I didn’t have an anxiety disorder, but I worried a lot. Even as I got older, and the little boy fears of the dark faded, the fear of judgment, rejection, and failure remained. Though the three seem like distinct phobias, they are actually intertwined.
I feared judgment from God. I feared hell. I feared not living up to the standard of righteousness. I had a relationship with God, a true encounter with Him, and served in ministry. But fear drove the relationship. I spent each day trying to figure out how I sinned so I could repent. Anytime I sinned, I would spend anywhere from a couple of hours to a week wallowed in guilt and condemnation for screwing up the umpteenth time. I knew God was love, but surely I had to live worthy of that love in some way. I knew the life God expected of me, so I focused on how I wasn’t living up to the standard so I could rectify it and please Him.
I feared rejection from people. I wanted to be accepted. I wanted to be liked, so much so that I was haunted by insecurity. I needed to make a positive impression on people — at work, at church, or just hanging out around town — so they would think highly of me. When I walked into a room, my first thought was what people thought of me and who noticed me. Was I good enough for them? Was I cool enough? Was I spiritual enough? Do they think I’m smart, attractive, intriguing? I was a prisoner to the perception of others.
I was afraid of failing, therefore, I was afraid to take risks… afraid I’d fall flat on my face and embarrass myself. So I didn’t ask the girl out, didn’t fight for the promotion, and didn’t start the business. I pretty much played it safe as much as possible, swimming in shallow waters because heading to the deep was too risky.
Love & Freedom
Freedom from these fears was a process, but it seems like it happened instantaneously. It seemed like in a moment, an epiphany caused them all to loosen their grip on my psyche. That epiphany was understanding the love of God, though it happened gradually. I heard plenty about God’s love and grace, but it never sunk in. Maybe because I couldn’t accept it — it seemed too good to be true. I had been a Christian for more than 10 years, and a true understanding of grace just began to hit me. God truly loved me, before I even accepted Him. His love is exclusive of my actions. No prerequisites required. Understanding and accepting that love freed me from all fears.
I no longer fear judgment because I know I’m loved not based on my actions, but His will. I know I still sin, but I’m no longer sin-focused; I’m grace-focused. I focus on His goodness, not my mistakes. I don’t sit and think of what I did wrong and how to rectify it; I think of how He loves me and I live and act in gratitude of it.
I no longer fear rejection because I know I’m fully accepted by God. I’m secure in my relationship with Him, so what others may think no longer matters. Finding security in my relationship with Him brought security in every other relationship. Understanding the love of God brings a new level of confidence that permeates all areas of life.
I no longer fear failure because, as author Don Miller says, “Failure is an education, not a judgment.” Love gives lenience. It allows us to take risks because it is a safety net. It reminds us failure is not final, it’s just a setback. If we fail When we fail, it doesn’t make us failures. We are still loved.
Hopefully this helps free you from fear. You may not have the specific fears I had, but His love conquers them all. It brings peace, security, and freedom. When I say I got an understanding of God’s love, realize it is a limited understanding. God’s love is way too deep, complex, and unfathomable to fully grasp. I just have grabbed hold of a portion of it, and it has changed my life.
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