Fears Reveal Loves
In a world full of danger, it’s natural to experience fear. The biblical command to “not be afraid” that we see throughout the Scriptures should clue us in to this reality. But the presence of fear doesn’t explain the reason for fear. Why are some people afraid of spiders, and others are not? Why does conflict paralyze some, but doesn’t seem to bother others? Why do some people struggle with social anxiety, and others seem to thrive on being the “life of the party?” To understand why we are afraid, we have to look within.
What does fear reveal?
In short, our fears reveal our loves. Fear reveals what we hold dear, what we love, value, and treasure. So an essential step in navigating fear is cultivating an awareness of our heart, which is what Jesus tells us to do in Matthew 6.
For anyone who has battled fear and anxiety, Matthew 6 is a popular chapter. In verses 25-34, we see Jesus addressing anxiety by calling our attention to our Heavenly Father’s care. “See the birds,” Jesus says. “See the flowers,” Jesus says. If God cares for them, then he will care for you. Don’t be anxious about those things; instead, seek God’s kingdom: love what God loves, pursue what God pursues. Live how God lives. However, to fully understand how to do battle against fear and anxiety, you need to back up to verse 19:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Loving what God loves
Jesus points us to one of the most important truths about life: where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. In other words, what you love will greatly impact how you live. If you love that which is heavenly (what God loves), your heart is secure. If you love that which is earthly—what can fade, be destroyed, or taken from you—your heart is vulnerable. And a vulnerable heart will oftentimes be revealed through fear or anxiety. If you treasure something that isn’t secure, you will have no choice but to be fearful. You will be afraid (or anxious) that you won’t be able to have the thing you love. You will be afraid (or anxious) that you won’t be able to keep the thing you love. Loving the kingdom of God will always require us to understand our temptation toward loving the kingdom of this earth.
Loving as God loves
There’s a slight wrinkle to this process of discerning your heart. What if you experience fear and anxiety that seems to be centered around something “good?” Take the safety of your family as an example. Shouldn’t I love my wife and kids? Shouldn’t I care about what happens to them? Shouldn’t I value them, treasure them, and seek to protect them? Of course I should. So if I Iove something or someone I’m supposed to love, why am I sometimes afraid or anxious?
In some cases, the issue is not what we love, but how we love it. Sometimes our loves are disordered—we love things we shouldn’t love. Sometimes our loves are misordered—we love things in ways we shouldn’t love them. My wife is amazing, and my kids are precious, but contrary to popular sentiment, they are not my “all in all.” They don’t provide me with ultimate comfort, satisfaction, or peace. And I can’t provide that for them. True peace, comfort, and satisfaction can only come from Christ. When the good things of our life take up more space in our hearts than God, we open our hearts to vulnerability in the same way we do by loving things we shouldn’t love.
In Matthew 6:33, Jesus tells us to “seek the kingdom of God” because he wants our lives to be centered on and wrapped up in the things God loves. He wants us to treasure righteousness, peace, truth, and the love of others. He wants us to set our hearts on him, not on the perishing things of this world. He wants us to experience the peace and freedom of loving and trusting him wholly and completely. That includes trusting him with the good things we love most. Not only does Jesus want us to love what God loves, but he wants us to love as God loves.
Learn to discern
So when you find yourself anxious, take a deep breath and peek into your heart. Ask yourself some questions: What are you setting your affections on? What is consuming your mind? What treasure are you pursuing or trying to hold onto? Then ask God to redirect or reorder your loves. Ask him to help you love what he loves, the way he loves it. Finally, thank him for being a good Father who has given you access to the kingdom of heaven, an inheritance that will never perish or fade, a treasure secured by his sovereign power.
Kent is a native of southern Illinois and a graduate of the University of Illinois. He holds an MA in Biblical Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He met his wife Hope at a Christian sports camp in Pennsylvania in 2007. They got married in 2010 and have three kids: Silas, Anna, and Grace. He is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan and loves talking about the intricacies of the golf swing. As a pastor, he loves having a front-row seat to watch how Jesus transforms people’s lives.