Fears Reveal Loves

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.

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Five Things the Lord Taught Me About Grief

Five Things the Lord Taught Me About Grief

As a trained biblical counselor, you might think that I know a lot about grieving. I know many things, but learned things come into greater clarity when you experience them personally. So I thought I would share a few new things the Lord has lovingly taught me these last six months since my mom passed away. I hope you will find them helpful.

1. A good listener is a wonderful gift.

Shortly after my mom’s death, I had two sweet, godly friends ask me to lunch. When I had lunch with the first friend, she let me share all the details of what happened the month preceding mom’s death. She just listened. I felt loved and cared for.

The second friend tried to be helpful and every so often in my telling the details, she would compare my experience to her painful experience when one of her parents died. I am quite certain her responses came from a loving heart. However, the comparisons were not helpful. What I found when leaving lunch with the second friend is that I not only felt the burdens of my own pain, but I also felt hers. As a result, I left feeling more sadness and grief.

To serve someone well in their grief, be a good listener. You can start the conversation simply by asking, What happened? As a follow-up question, you might ask, What was the hardest part? A final question might be, What could I do that would be helpful?

2. Some friends may not understand; don’t be hurt by this.

I have many wonderful young friends. Because they are so young, many of them have not yet experienced the loss of a parent. This makes it difficult for them to understand the grief I felt. Additionally, I was so blessed to have had a godly mother. She was my best girlfriend and we spent a lot of time together hanging out. I miss her every day. The Lord showed me that another impediment to a friend understanding the grief I experienced could be the fact that they have a very different relationship with their mom/dad. It may be strained, superficial, or even non-existent. In cases like this, there may even be some jealousy.

The Lord was gracious to help me realize no one could truly know how I was feeling. It may have been because of a lack of experience of grief or due to very different relationships. Either way, I had to recognize these truths and choose not to have my feelings hurt but rather to extend grace. In some situations, I found myself taking advantage of a teachable moment to help friends understand ways they could serve a grieving brother or sister.

3. Anger – it may surprise you.

If you’ve ever studied grief, then you probably know that anger is often cited as one of the “stages” of grief. I knew this. However, I assumed it meant you were mad at the person responsible for the death, the person who died, or maybe even God. I found that I was angry, but not at anyone in particular. I found I had a very short fuse and became angry at the most ridiculous things – like the bank teller being too slow. Knowing this aspect of anger during grief can help one understand the actions of the grieved and react with grace and care.

4. Be honest about your feelings.

I think a natural tendency for most people is to hide their feelings. How many times have you been having an awful day and yet you respond with, “I’m fine” when asked? I found it helpful to simply say, “I’m not doing too well today, but thank you so much for asking,” or “I’m really struggling with sadness today, would you pray for me?” This does two things. First, it helps you to tell someone when you are hurting, not to elicit some response or action from them, but to simply acknowledge out loud how you feel inside. Second, friends really do care, and telling the truth about your feelings gives them insight as to how they can pray for you and be a better friend.

5. Meal delivery gift cards are a remarkable gift.

I grew up in the South and was taught the “right” way to minister to someone who is grieving is through food. While I do love a tasty casserole, I experienced the beauty of calling for a meal when I needed it the most, such as when I felt immobilized in my grief and could not get off the couch. Not every day is the same when you are grieving; some days are just harder than others. The meal delivery gift cards were incredibly helpful on those days.

Grief will come to all and for a variety of reasons. I hope this article has been helpful for you both personally and as you serve your brothers and sisters.

Denise has served as the Director of Women’s Life and Assistant Professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where she taught graduate courses in ministry to women. Prior to serving at Southeastern, Denise was a student there and earned both her MA in Biblical Counseling and Doctor of Education. Currently, she serves as Director of Counseling Development. Denise and her husband Rod have been married 46 years and have two married daughters and six grandchildren.

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