Just like anger, we ask ourselves the question: Is all fear bad fear? Not at all.
Fear is an important emotion that tells us there is something we need to look at or address which could be an actual threat to us or to someone we love. However, unhealthy reactions to fear, as we read about in The Emotion of Fear, Part 1 of 2, are behaviors that we try to eliminate or manage in our lives, as they tend to be disruptive and problematic to us, to our relationships and certainly to our recovery from compulsive and self-medicating chemicals and behaviors.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment” – 1 John 4:18 (TNIV)
One of the ways to experience a constructive outcome with fear is to “cast it out” with “perfect love” (1 John 4: 18). Sounds like a tall order, however, when we look at the Greek word for “perfect” (Telios), we are given a clue regarding how to make this challenge become a reality in our lives. Telios (pronounced Tee-lee-os) does not mean “perfect” or “the absence or error.” Telios means “whole, complete, mature or completely organized.”
A good way to think of Telios is to imagine yourself putting a puzzle together with a friend, spouse, partner, or, even with your God. Instead of a random puzzle you purchased at a store, this puzzle is actually a picture or mosaic of your life, and interspersed in the pieces are experiences you have had with fear, hurt, pain, but also joy, accomplishment, family, etc. It is a puzzle you will be working on for the remainder of your days.
Assembling a puzzle takes time, energy and effort as you pick up the puzzle pieces, turn them and talk about where you think they fit. From time to time, you may stand up or step back to survey how much you have accomplished, what makes sense to you and are you achieving “your purpose” as you near “completion.”
Seeing where you are at in your process toward finishing the puzzle sometimes provides encouragement and it may boost your morale to keep going because you “see the larger picture,” but at times you still have uncertainty or fear about some parts of your life that seem incomplete, unfinished, or unresolved. So how does this fit in with Telios and casting out fear? Let’s take a look at three specific points that may shed light on this.
First, when you work with another person to assemble the puzzle pieces, you are engaging in what the Bible calls “understanding” (Syneimi). Syneimi is literally the meaning and description of the process you are involved in: collecting your puzzle pieces and assembling the objects into a whole (like a puzzle).
But get this: Understanding only occurs when you work with another person (God, partner, spouse, family member, etc.; Note the prefix: “Syn” means “together”). It is insight alone if you do this by yourself, but it is understanding when your problem solving process involves another person.
You know how you feel “understood” when you have talked things out with another person, and they have listened to you, validated your perspective, did not get defensive and they experienced the “aha” moment with you? That is syneimi, and it is synonymous with the puzzle piece “clicking” into place.
Have you had the experience of sharing or “working” on some life issue with a friend where at one time you felt worried, uncertain or fearful, and in the course of your conversation you figured some things out, you felt understood and both of you saw the issue better and clearer? You just experienced Syneimi…like working on the puzzle, you turned the issues around, saw it differently and when the issue made sense to you, you felt understood. At that moment, in your heart or spirit, did you hear the puzzle piece “click” into place?
Second, please remember that love is also part of the process that helps to “cast out the fear” as well, which means characteristics such as love, honor, esteem, favor, acceptance, respect, etc. will be part of your discussion also. I think these “ingredients” create safety, which helps to create calm, especially when we are anxious or fearful. These ingredients or expressions of love also facilitate the feeling and experience of being understood.
Finally, when we step back and observe the puzzle or the issue(s) that we once felt fear about, we may begin to feel differently because we have engaged in a productive process with another person where we feel understood and we may feel encouraged because some of our life issues are being resolved, like puzzle pieces that are being put into their proper place.
When we look at “the picture” (which is our life) we may begin to see that the picture isn’t so bad and there may not be a need to worry so much, because we have accepted responsibility to use our energy purposefully to work with someone else to overcome past, current or future tasks that we anticipate will be challenging for us.
We also feel we are not alone because we have invited God, a friend, a partner or a spouse to lovingly assist us with our fear and it is likely that we begin to feel confident (versus fearful) because our interaction with them has helped us to assemble or even “co-create” a different outcome to our situation.
So I ask you, as a result of your engagement in this overall process of self-discovery and collaboration with the other party, could you see how you might be led to let go or “cast out” this fear from yourself?
I think this is the meaning and the outcome of 1 John 4:18: We let go of our fears because we have used our energy creatively and purposefully to figure out our problems and in most instances create a new reality (or new puzzle pieces for our life) that were not present before because we had not done this deeper work with God and others to “co-create” healthier outcomes in our lives.
Working in this manner completes or “matures” a section of our life puzzle where we see things differently, how they fit and how, with God’s help, we can solve problems and create new realities for ourselves, which certainly helps to drive out any fear or any uncertainty that comes from not knowing how the pieces of our life fit together. This process of overcoming our fear is very empowering!
In closing this post on Fear, allow me to provide a few more thoughts about dealing with our fear:
A Constructive Response (Jeremiah 29:11)
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” – Jeremiah 29:11 (TNIV)
This verse encourages us to be open to God and to hear His promise to us, realizing that He has our best intention in mind in addition to not see further harm come to us. As we consider any fear that we have within our life, this passage of scripture encourages us with the following points:
God knows the plans that He has for us: Picture yourself as a canvas, with God being the painter. That is the meaning inferred in the word “plans,” and God knows exactly what he wants to bring to completion in our lives. Our job is to sit for a moment and allow His word and His Spirit to begin to “articulate to our heart” the beautiful and artistic peace He loves and is creating in us. So I encourage you to slow down and consider that you are still an awesome work in progress. What do you think or hear God revealing to you about any situation that you have fear about, one brushstroke at a time?
God has plans to prosper you: This word conveys the meaning that God is going to work with us, to assist us in the process of becoming “generative.” With God, a piece of art is not kept on an easel or a wall to be admired by others. No, His plans indicate that we are created to be “functional art,” that not only carry His signature (2 Timothy 2:15), but we are to be people who also accomplish His purpose(s). See 2 Corinthians 5: 5, then verses 11—21 of the same chapter. Keep in mind what God wants to accomplish in this “micro-season” with you, His greatest piece of artwork.
God has plans not harm you, but to give you hope: As we consider our lives, some of us have been harmed and we are fearful, some of us have been abused and we are hesitant to trust others (God as well as people). God asks us to take a risk, knowing that as we follow His plans to cast out fear, then we position ourselves to experience healing, health, hope and more than likely a “complete organization” in our lives that could lead to our personal and relational growth and maturity. The question remains for us: Will we let Him accomplish or finish His artwork in our lives?
God has plans to give you a future: The picture conveyed from the word for future (AHAR) is of a person rowing in a rowboat. The person backs into the future while constantly looking toward where they have traveled.
For some of us, in order to travel into the future and become the complete and perfect mosaic that God is creating us to be, we have to look at and face the fears that have beset us, derailed us and kept us from experiencing His fulfilling and liberating love. Let’s work on our future today with God, with a safe, trusted and wise other person, to finish the masterpiece that God has always had in mind for us to become, one brushstroke at a time.
So in summation, please know that anything that you have fear, grief, guilt, shame, regret or worry about, that you have the opportunity to create a new outcome with God and hopefully with others. Going forward, my hope for you is that you will have no need to fear this pleasant and powerful reality. Let His love remove unhealthy fear and fearful responses from your life today and in the process, create something beautiful to inspire you and others in your life.
Feel free to leave a comment or pass this post to others who you think would like to read it and could benefit from the information. By all means, please visit my other page at dr ken mcgill’s blog for more helpful counseling information.