I had a dream once where I saw the gates of hell. Now that I have your attention, let me just say that it gives the phrase “jaws of hell” a brand new meaning. In spite of the horrifying nature of what I saw, I had no fear when I observed it. This is the point, remember this. Even though I was there, I didn’t have any of the “normal” emotional responses. It’s like I was being shown. So whether they look like what I saw or not, it doesn’t touch on the fact that they do exist (“the gates of hell shall not prevail…” Matthew 16:18). There were personal references in the dream that tied in to my waking life. Highly symbolic. All that aside, the thing that intrigues me is the fact that I could have observed something so grotesque and grim, yet not be afraid one whit.
It’s not usually like that in life.
Most times the things we fear are absolutely, or should I say relatively normal to our life. Things like financial situations and health concerns and familial or relational quandaries. And the fear is subtle, creeping. Like it’s smoldering beneath the surface. I don’t want to induce any, but let’s look at it objectively. Let’s gaze back at the abyss, so to speak. A couple of watchwords before we start spelunking:
“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love Him, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:18-19)
Did you catch that? Perfect love. Isn’t that what fear is? Something—real or perceived—that would seek to separate us from God and His love? Now before I go any further, think about the concept of fearlessness. What’s the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe some flying metaphor? I’m not trying to sound trite and short here but how impossible is it for humans to fly? By the same token, how impossible is it for us to erase the fears—large and small—that mar our joy and sap our strength? It would seem that they’re there for the duration. But Paul says in Romans that we are “more than conquerors through Him that loved (loves—present tense) us” and that same love is a “perfect love” that “casteth out fear”, says John. Who’s right? They say that the abyss gazes back. But if God is bigger, who’s doing the gazing? Is God bigger than your fear? Hah! He is. This is one of the lessons of existence. Take your fear to its logical conclusion. Rack your brain for the worst possible scenario—if you feel so inclined—and take that object of pure fear, like a lump of black, sooty coal, and take it to God in prayer, comparing it to Paul’s list of things that are unable “to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Does it match up with one of those? Any of those? “Death” and “life” cover a pretty wide spectrum. Check, check. Going further, what about “angels”, “principalities” and “powers”? Um, I’d have to be shown them by God. And if I was shown by God things of that nature, then I’m sure I’d be given the grace (as I was in the dream) to look upon and dismiss with a wave of my hand. Check.
“Things present”? “Things to come”? It’s almost like excitement and anticipation are the opposites of fear. Just like looking forward to an exciting event or a meeting with a friend, fear is what we feel when we dread the future. But God’s love is there too. Everywhere you look. All across the span of time, God’s love swaths the whole lot of it. It’s nothing before Him. Why He would ever ask us to “fear not” (over sixty times in the Bible) if He was unable to allay our fears and put them to rest and replace them with the excitement and anticipation of a wonderful future? “Nor any other creature”, whatever they may be. Aliens? Monsters? Boogeymen? Any of numerous phantasmagoria that pale in comparison with the awe-inspiring wonder of my—and your—Heavenly Father.
Step with God to the edge. Talk to Him about what scares you. “Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7). Don’t be afraid, you can fly (see Isaiah 40:31). If you’re afraid, then you just don’t know it yet. Oftentimes, God has to take us to the very edge of what it is that scares us just to prove to our doubting hearts that He is able to kill the fear that so easily besets us. To make us “perfect in love”. Now that I think about it, that just might be why I had the dream in the first place. “But the fearful…shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire…” (Revelation 21:8) Hah! Not me.
“Fear thou not, for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea (Yay!), I will help thee; yea (Yay!), I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)
The abyss? The jaws of hell? (“Death is swallowed up in victory.” Corinthians 15:54) Pssh! Gimme a break. Let’s go play outside.