So every morning I read a couple of Bible verses from study apps I use, and they give me something to reflect on through the day. This morning, one of the verses was 1 John 4:18—
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
Look, there are a couple of ways we can take this verse, but I think the best way is not the most obvious. Because honestly, none of us is going to be able to pull off "perfect love." We're going to slip on that one, because we're incapable of maintaining perfection for long. Entropy of the universe, and all that.
But I think the idea here is that fear is an indicator. Kind of like when frogs stop croaking all at once or canaries keel over when you enter a mine shaft, you instantly know that something's up. So, fear is an indicator that you're not being loving, or not doing what you love.
So I woke up this morning feeling a little anxious and afraid, which happens sometimes. Usually my anxiety is about my career in some way, and today was no different. This is just how it goes. But what I've never really had before was a way to frame that anxiety and fear so that I could understand it, or deal with it in a way that wasn't just "powering through." Growing from your experiences means developing a framework for understanding them and repurposing them, and so far in my life I haven't really done that for anxiety.
So I read this verse, and now it had me thinking in a new way about fear, about anxiety, about why I would feel either of those things just as I was waking up. And it had me thinking about how to deal with them.
I don't know about you, but when I'm feeling anxious and afraid, I'm terrible at sticking to my habits. Meaning, even though my long-formed habit is to write every single day, when I feel anxious and afraid I'm actually drained of the will and strength to do that work. I find myself dreading it. I find myself dragging my butt to the chair and trying to force the words to come out. And, well ... that ain't love.
And I love writing. I love telling stories. I love connecting to people through my work. But all of that is completely defeated and deflated when my day starts with me being afraid and anxious and worried about how it will all turn out. Dread means dead.
But the habit is there. The need is there. The obligation is there. I'm committed to writing every day, so I have to somehow get past the fear.
This morning, I did that by opening up Day One, my absolute favorite journaling app, and writing about the dreams and goals and hopes that drive me. I wrote about the financial goals I have, but I took it several steps further and wrote about the goals I have for after I hit those marks. I wrote about the help I want to be able to give to people, once I'm enabled by a greater income. I wrote about why I want to help those people, and what it means.
I also wrote about my wife, Kara, and how grateful I am for her. I wrote about the dreams she has, the goals she has shared with me, and the ministry she's wanting to be a part of. I wrote about how I want to help her in that, and enable her in it as much as I can, the same way she enables me in my dreams and goals.
And after writing about all these dreams and goals and hopes and prayers and gratitudes ... I felt better.
Maybe I was loving more perfectly. Or at least, more perfectly than I was before. But the fear and the anxiety went away, and the writing became easier. I was writing with purpose, and I was expressing myself through something I love to do.
I don't know if you wake up feeling anxious or afraid, but you might. Or you might know someone else who does. And I don't know if writing is really something you do, or even want to do, but I encourage you to give it a try. Writing is a pretty amazing tool for getting to the things you care about, for uncovering the things that make you ... well, you. It's also a tool for uncovering who you want to be, and making a plan to get to there from where you are.
Writing isn't the only way to deal with fear, though. It's just the way that I know and understand best. You might have to find something that works better for you, that connects better with you. Drawing and painting. Playing or listening to music. Playing video games. Reading. Going to church or meeting friends at a coffee shop.
Whatever it is that connects best with you, and that arms you against fear and anxiety, remember that it's always going to come back to love.
If fear is an indicator that you aren't loving perfectly, that's really good news. Because it means that the antidote to fear is doing something you love. And that's totally in your control.