Fear is crippling. It can turn the strongest of men and women into a trembling mess. At times, we can predict it’s coming, and at others it just lands like a lead weight crushing our ability to do anything. Fear knocks at my door, and cognitive behavioural therapy training, Bible verses and the transformative power of the Spirit continues to help me.
My literal interpretation of 1 John 4:18 has helped me out of a fearful moment or two. We had the privilege of skiing this Christmas, and after the first few days I was dreading going up the slopes again. I woke up early one morning full of fear. I immediately recognised what was going on and spent the next hour praying, asking for the want to get down the mountain that day. I felt an emotional shift occur and knew God was at work. That day my instructor and group all commented on how I was a different person, no longer fearful, and it was a joy to explain why. God can remove fear and replace it with his perfect love.
However, there are so many times we pray this prayer and the fear doesn’t go, and when understanding this passage in such a literal manner, it has led me to chastise myself when fear has got the better of me. After all, do I really know God’s love for me if I am fearful? God challenged this whilst I was skiing with an incredible beginners’ group. There was no ‘buck up and get down the mountain’, we each had grace for one another. It was the patience of the instructor, the positive can-do attitude of one member, the companionship of another, and the understanding of the third who, on one day, literally climbed back up a steep slope and lead me down an easier one, that got me through my fears and down the mountain. Not a single negative or challenging sentence was said, and everyone was so proud of each other for making it down. I’m sure I’ve experienced something like this before, but for some reason it really stood out this time, perhaps God was speaking. The group’s patience and kindness continued throughout the week, it never ran out and, by the end of the week, we could all ski down a mountain, albeit very slowly for some of us! Is this what love looks like when you are accepted, even with your vulnerabilities and your fears? There was no challenge beyond what I could bear, just love and understanding. Human love cannot be perfect, but it can be a mirror of the love God has for us, and even God’s direct love for us if we are willing to see it. It’s the kind of love that walks us through fear, pain, shame, disappointment, and allows us to trust, to grow and to feel the freedom love can bring. It can take us up and down the mountains in our life. We can find God’s love in the midst of fear.
We are all on a journey with God, to love our communities. Rural mission involves a lot of courage, patience, and trust, and when we are watching and waiting for the signs of the Spirit, fear can so easily creep in. Following in the footsteps of my skiing group I want to say, that’s OK. We’re in this together and we can do this together. Let’s take the time to find God in the middle of the fear, to find his love and hope - to let him lead us down the mountain. If we need to pray, let’s pray, if we need to take a break, let’s take it, and if we need to go slowly, let’s do it, if we need someone to walk with us, let’s ask for help, and, if we are the ones with the ability to gently encourage let’s go for it. We’re in this together and God’s perfect love has the uncanny ability to cast out fear.
Jo Allen Director: South West