By: Cheri Fuller
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.
We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:18–19 NIV
Fear Hinders Relationships
Because of the over 50 percent divorce rate, many women were raised without fathers. Some feel they can’t depend on a man or commit to a relationship. But “today’s widespread fear of trusting men can actually become the catalyst that causes us to place our trust and faith in God. The stress that comes when we attempt to be in control of relationships will ultimately rob us of the joy of life. We can become free of that stress when we release our control to God and begin to live in freedom from fear,” says Barbara Sullivan in The Control Trap.
Maybe your fear isn’t a lack of trust in a person as I experienced, but a fear of being abandoned or rejected. That kind of fear usually causes a woman to build walls around her heart, and in the process she grows lonelier and lonelier. Or fear of rejection may lead her to people pleasing and being taken advantage of by friends and family. “One of my biggest worries is investing time and heart in a friendship and then seeing my friend marry and move away,” said one single woman. “It’s happened over and over, and I come up empty.” Some fear being used, being betrayed, being alone, or not measuring up to what others think they should be.
One of the main places a fear of rejection comes from is from our early experiences with family. As Stephen Arterburn, Paul Meier, and Robert L. Wise say, “Parents are of supreme importance to all of us as children. We desperately need our parents’ love and want to know we mean the world to Mom and Dad. When unconditional love isn’t possible, the door opens to a deeply unsettling fear our parents may be about to jettison us out of their lives. Such fear of rejection is terrifying!”
Ever since she was a little girl, Stephanie had struggled with this kind of rejection. Her father would say over and over to her and her sister, “Nobody loves you like your daddy,” but he was the one who forgot to pick her up from school in the first grade. . .ignored her birthdays. . .wasn’t at the airport when she flew home to visit him in high school. Her dad also had girlfriends about four years older than Stephanie to take her to the mall when it was his court-ordered visitation day.
Not having a relationship with her dad left a hole in Stephanie’s heart, and she carried a yearning for a father figure into adulthood. It also caused her to unconsciously pick a “substitute for the rejecting parent,” first a handsome guy who turned out to be a drug addict, and two years later, a knight in shining armor who swept her off her feet but once they were married mentally, physically, and sexually abused her. After fourteen months, that marriage was over. Still she kept praying daily that God would send her someone to love.
Folding laundry one Saturday afternoon, she lamented her marital situation. Her emotions over the past year had run the gamut from rage, abandonment, fear, and sorrow, to hopelessness. She began to blame her suffering on God. Crying uncontrollably, she fell to her knees. Why did You do this to me? Why? Why, God?
“You prayed for Someone you could love,” was the reply of the Almighty as she heard Him whisper to her heart. All of a sudden, the tears stopped. She’d thought romantic love was the answer. . .the solution to the emptiness in her life. It was as though God said, “You asked Me to show you how to love. . .I am giving you more than this man. . .I am teaching you to love Me.” She realized then that unfortunately there had been no room in her heart for God until her heart was broken by a mortal man. Slowly she began to learn to love God who always returns her love and never breaks her heart. As the old fears of rejection and abandonment and loss were healed, a place was eventually made for a healthy relationship with a godly, loving man, her darling husband Michael.
Instead of looking for love in all the wrong places as Stephanie did, other people cope with fear of rejection by withdrawing and retreating from any attempt to love or be loved. “We seek safety in going unnoticed. We reach out to no one lest we be rebuffed. Jesus commanded the disciples to ‘love one another as I have loved you’ (John 15:12 RSV). Shyness utterly stifles the ability to do that and, in that sense, could be considered a sin,” says Bruce Larson in Living Beyond Our Fears.
© 2015 by Back to the Bible.
“From Replacing Worry for Wonder, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.”