The Stretch: Fear and Love

Sometimes, we need to step into uncertainty and the unknown to experience what God has for us. We all like this idea, but when it comes down to it, something gets in the way – fear.

Fear often comes between where we are and where we want to be. Whether physical, emotional, or spiritual, fear often prevents a stretch in our lives. So, as followers of Jesus who aim to embrace the stretch, how do we engage with fear?


When we talk about fear, there’s two different definitions we need to consider:
  • Fear – terror, panic, the act of being afraid
  • Fear – reverence, respect

Both definitions have very different meanings but are rooted in the same concept – identifying ourselves by something greater than ourselves.

We look for who we are, a sense of security and position, an idea of our worth and value based on something greater than ourselves.

Imagine if a tornado was coming at you. What would you do? Where would you position yourself? Inside. Why? Because of your fear of it. You respect it while rightfully recognizing the danger it poses. It’s greater than you, so it reveals your fear level.

When we apply this spiritually, the fear is that God is the something greater we’ve put our identity in and is the thing we’re identified by.

When we apply this spiritually, looking at the second definition, the feeling of coming danger or threat reveals where we’ve positioned our identity. It reveals where our hope and faith are.

Our identity is crucial in many ways because it defines our purpose, shapes our relationships, and directs our actions. We ought to have a healthy fear, reverence, and respect for God. That fear that brings about something good is great because it roots us in something greater than ourselves – God. The other kind of fear roots us, too, but to something else.

So, where does fear come from? How do we get it?

Genesis 3
7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

There is no fear in our perfect state, where we’re in God’s presence, and all is right. But now because of sin and its effect on the world, there is fear. This distinction is important because we have to recognize how we are and how we were meant to be. We weren’t designed to be afraid.

Before the Fall, God defined mankind, and that’s where our identities lie. But with sin and fear present, we are positioned away from Him.

For anyone with kids, if they do something you told them specifically not to do, usually the first question you ask is, “What did you do?” You ask for their acknowledgment of the issue.

Genesis 3
9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

When God asks, “Where are you,” God is looking for His creation, but He’s not just asking for a physical location. This is profound because God and humanity used to be close, and now, because of sin, they’re not. It’s the main thing that fear does. It dislocates us from God.


God is concerned about what they did and how it has changed the relationship dynamic.

God doesn’t address the first fruit; He addresses the fear that’s caused dislocation.

Why is this important? God cares about fear, but God cares about YOUR fear. It matters to Him. Our sinful behavior often has consequences. God knows that fear dislocates us from Him. Fear causes a break in the relationship, so God asks, “Where are you?” And this simple question marks the starting point of relationship restoration.


When God calls us to embrace this stretch, it means we need to step into the love of God. It sounds simple enough, but this might be a stretch because we’ve previously experienced punishment and rejection when we fail.

So, what happens when one of the hardest things we’ve ever had to embrace is the idea that God loves us when we don’t feel like we deserve it? We have to understand that He pursues us and asks us, “Where are you?” And He does this when we’re afraid and hiding from Him because of what we’ve done.

And if it happens often enough, fear and rejection can become a comfort. It becomes a new way of living because it’s predictable, but God’s love is unpredictable. It’s a stretch. Even though we sin and there must be payment for what we’ve done wrong, God says you don’t need to fear because He will do for you what you cannot do on your own.


We are afraid of being punished for what we’ve done. We are fearful of what will happen to us as a result of our actions.
  • Fear ruins and distorts our relationship with God.
  • We’re afraid because we’re exposed. Our sin is on display and God knows what we’ve done.
  • What does the “punishment for what we’ve done” look like? Rejection, isolation, and separation from God.

Our sin separates us from God, our fear hides us from Him, and that fear is centered in the belief that we will be punished for what we’ve done.

So, how can we be face-to-face with God without the fear and doubt of our sin getting in the way? Is there a way to fix the dislocation?


1 John
3 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

God’s love is what relocates us. God provides a way for us to be in close relationship with Him again after being dislocated, isolated, hidden, and fearful of punishment, thanks to His love.

Genesis 4
16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 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. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

We start with this idea that God loves us. If we embody God’s love, if that is now the “something bigger we’re identified by,” it becomes evident in every aspect of our lives.

A day of judgment coming, but it’s important to remember that judgment is different from punishment.

Judgment asks who is responsible, and punishment answers with the consequences. Because of Jesus and God’s love, He’s taken our punishment on Himself so that we can have a restored, relocated relationship with God.

We should identify ourselves in that love so that on the day we stand before God, we do have fear, but it’s not of punishment for our sin. It’s a reverence, confidence in His love, and in our identity in Jesus.


The opposite of fear is love. Fear drives us to be self-protective, to use our power and influence to preserve ourselves. It drives us to use others to complete us and to make us feel safe.

We can’t have love and fear in the same sentence. When we’re brought into the love of God in Jesus, the fear of punishment or rejection from God is driven out and changed into a fear or reverence and respect for something great than us, which is God’s love.

There must be another component to the love of God. It has never been enough for God, and it cannot be enough for us, to have a private relationship that doesn’t expand out and invite others to experience the love of Jesus. It’s a domino effect. But that domino has to fall, setting off a chain reaction.

In the same way fear and love can’t coexist, love for God and hating other people can’t coexist.

In our relationships with one another, we look for ways to serve, care for, encourage, and love each other because that’s exactly what was done for us in Jesus.

It’s our time to stretch by embracing and living out the love of God.

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