Does Perfect Love Remove Fear of My Child Going Astray?
August 7, 2009 Blogs by: Tim Jennings, M.D.

I’ve listened to what you have said about fear and have read in my Bible that perfect love casts out fear. I agree and have experienced that the truth about God does indeed heal fear. Yet there is an area of my life where I really struggle with fear.

I have a son who is in his twenty’s. He is on his own now and is making lots of hurtful decisions for his life. I know that God loves him more then I do and that He won’t leave any stone unturned in his efforts to rescue my son from himself and from any lies he holds to. But even knowing this I am fearful–my son is the wild card–and I FEAR what he is doing to himself–the damage he is doing–the suffering that he is bringing on himself–that he may damage himself in ways that will plague him for the rest of his life or that he may even ruin himself for eternity. I find myself being fearful and worried and very stressed over what I see happening in my sons life. Is God’s perfect love supposed to cast out even this kind of fear?

I appreciate any thoughts you may have.

Thank you.

Great question! Mankind was created by God to operate upon the template of perfect, other-centered love. This love does not originate with created beings but arises from the heart of God and flows from Him into the hearts of all intelligent creatures who trust Him. In this state there is no fear – for self!

“Perfect love casts out all fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” (1John 4:18).

Sin is the breech of this condition of perfect love, which arose because lies about God were believed and trust in Him was severed. Having believed lies about God mankind no longer experienced His perfect care, love and presence and thus fear arose in the heart and man became self-centered. Since the entrance of sin, rather than thinking of the welfare of others, fear leads us to think of self first.

When we come to know God, as revealed in Jesus, the lies are removed and trust is restored. In this state, God pours His love into our hearts (Romans 5:5) and this love removes our concern for self thus casting out fear of what happens to us. We are no longer afraid of what people say about us, how we are treated, what our eternal destiny will be, whether we get a particular job etc. Living in a trust relationship with God we trust Him with the outcome of our lives and our focus shifts from ourselves to others.

To the degree our focus remains on self we remain in fear. As we lose self in Christ we live in love. In love we are no longer fearful for self, but are concerned for the welfare of others. In love we may experience apprehension of a loved one rejecting God, alarm that the church may fail to complete its mission on earth, concern over Satanic agencies thwarting a particular mission for good. This type of fear is not a self-centered, insecurity, sin based fear but a compassionate love and concern for the welfare of others. Therefore, as we come to experience more of God’s healing love we will experience more concern for others, which you have described as fear.

The confusing factor is the human heart, which until glorification, tempts us from within and is “deceitful above all things and utterly wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). We must be vigilant in prayer and with God to be sure our motives for our children are not actually motives for ourselves disguised as concern for them.

I have known many parents who have their own sense of wellbeing, their own esteem, their own worth as individuals, their own confidence in their Christian character caught up in how their children turn out. If their children stray from the path of right the parent feels like a failure and the parent then needs the child to repent so the parent can feel good about themselves. This type of concern, on the surface, appears to be about the salvation of the child and is often accepted as love. But it is not. It is still selfishness cleverly disguised as love and thus incites powerful fear and insecurity.

Genuine love is also always truthful. And the truth is that parents are not responsible for how their children turn out. They are responsible for their conduct in parenting. In the same way God is not responsible for how Lucifer turned out, but is responsible for being a perfect loving God.

In love we may have real concern, fear, anxiety and heart-breaking grief over a loved one who is destroying themselves. But, this type of concern is not fear of being a failure as a parent, feeling guilty for their condition or blaming self for their rebellion.

Finally, we must remember that, because of God’s will, each person freely chooses what happens with their life. In other words, ultimately, our children will decide what happens to their own lives. While we might not have made these choices for them, as we come to know God more fully and live in His love, we are glad to leave our children as free moral agents who determine their own destiny.

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Tim Jennings, M.D. Timothy R. Jennings, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist, master psychopharmacologist, Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Fellow of the Southern Psychiatric Association, and an international speaker. He served as president of the Southern and Tennessee Psychiatric Associations and is president and founder of Come and Reason Ministries. Dr. Jennings has authored many books, including The God-Shaped Brain, The God-Shaped Heart, and The Aging Brain.