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How Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

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The verses on the power of God’s love found in 1 John 4 have always been a source of hope and inspiration for me. 

In a world that often encourages us to be guarded and hard, the gospel of Jesus Christ offers us a different perspective—one that invites us to be gentle and genuine. Here are just a few of my favorite verses. 

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. – 1 John 4:7

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. – 1 John 4:10-11

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. – 1 John 4:18

However, as I’ve sought to better understand charity and prayed “with all the energy of the heart, that ye may be filled with this love” (Moroni 7:48), I’ve still struggled to embrace the perfect love these scriptures talk about. I’ve had fear and torment. 

This has especially manifested itself in how I interact with others. I have anxiety about if people really care for me, if I’m offering too much of myself or too little, if I am a burden, or how to be appropriately vulnerable with the people I love most. 

It’s made me wonder what pieces are missing in my understanding about what “perfect love” is and how it can cast out fear. Here are a few thoughts as we dive deeper into these verses. 

Understanding “Perfect Love”

“There is no fear in love” is truly a bold statement. It implies that love, in its purest form, is incompatible with fear. To understand how perfect love casts out fear, we need to understand what it is in the first place.

Perfect love, in this context, refers to unconditional, selfless, and divine love—the kind of love defined by the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. It is a love that is rooted in compassion, forgiveness, and perspective—when we understand how God loves us, we are able to achieve our eternal potential as “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). 

Perfect love is also an unconditional love that is full and complete. We can see this type of life in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice was offered for all mankind. All are invited to partake of His goodness and enter into lasting covenants. 

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf described God’s love this way: 

“Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely. He loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love.”

Casting Out Fear

Fear is a natural instinct meant to keep us safe. We shouldn’t discount it completely. However, fear has taken on a whole new level in our modern world. And let’s not forget life’s curveballs—trauma and mental health stuff—that can increase our fear and anxiety. All of these feelings can drown out the soul-soothing voice of the Holy Ghost. 

How then does God’s perfect love cast out fear?

The scriptures suggest that perfect love has the transformative power to cast out fear. When we experience genuine, perfect love, it acts as a force that dispels the darkness of fear. This is because perfect love is inherently secure, leaving leaving little to no room for the anxieties that fear brings.

If you are struggling to experience this kind of love, here are a few thoughts to ponder: 

God’s love is readily available. We can cast out fear by remembering to turn to God in difficult times. His love is not conditional. When we seek it, we can experience it. Now, this experience may look different than we expect, but as we embrace the promptings of the Holy Ghost, we can notice how God is showing his tender concern and care.

God’s love is not defined by circumstances. No matter who we are or what we’ve done, God loves us. As President Thomas S. Monson once said, “God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve love. It is simply always there.” You may feel like you need to become something or do something in order to be loved by God. However, as a child of God, love is your birthright. 

God’s love invites a celestial perspective. When we focus on God’s love, our minds have less room for the fears of this mortal world. We are able to put our trials into an eternal perspective and gain strength for our everyday battles. 

If you are mired by fear, it may be an indication that the love you are giving or receiving is not aligned with the sort of perfect love God offers. To overcome fear, one must strive for a deeper, more profound understanding and experience with this love.

What Prophets Have Taught

Multiple leaders of the Church have used these verse in 1 John 4 to teach about love and fear. Here is just a small sampling of what they’ve said. 

What Elder Uchtdorf said at April 2023 general conference about parents -  Church News

“We are, therefore, not ignorant of the challenges of the world, nor are we unaware of the difficulties of our times. But this does not mean that we should burden ourselves or others with constant fear.”

“Rather than dwelling on the immensity of our challenges, would it not be better to focus on the infinite greatness, goodness, and absolute power of our God, trusting Him and preparing with a joyful heart for the return of Jesus the Christ?”

“As we fill our hearts with the love of Christ, we will awaken with a renewed spiritual freshness and we will walk joyfully, confidently, awake, and alive in the light and glory of our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ.” – Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf

“If we simply love God and love our neighbors, we are promised that we will overcome our fears.” – Elder L. Tom Perry

“Perhaps our Heavenly Father’s greatest hope is that through our fears we may choose to turn to him. The uncertainties of earth life can help to remind each of us that we are dependent on him. But that reminder is not automatic. It involves our agency. We must choose to take our fears to him, choose to trust him, and choose to allow him to direct us. We must make these choices when what we feel most inclined to do is to rely more and more on our own frantic and often distorted thinking.” – Sister Virginia H. Pearce

Striving for Perfect Love

Striving to know and experience God’s perfect love is a journey. It involves embracing covenants, understanding the true nature of God, believing in our eternal potential, and sharing this type of love with others. As we walk this path of discipleship, we can overcome our fears and take courage in the ultimate truth that “God is love.” 

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Aleah Ingram
Aleah Ingram
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.

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