“The chains of love are stronger than the chains of fear.” William Gurnall
In 1988, my family moved from Arizona to Chicago, for my husband’s final year of training. I met another mom with young children who also liked to jog. So before our husbands went to work, we would run for a couple of miles, a few times each week. Since I had little experience with snow and ice, I had no idea what black ice was, that is until my feet slipped on it and I did a face plant on the sidewalk. Immediately a goose egg formed above my eye, while I wondered what I did wrong to deserve this punishment or trial from God. Punish means “to impose a penalty on for a fault, offense, or violation.”
Years ago, religion more than relationship, played a significant role in my walk with God. I thought as long as I obeyed my heavenly Father, then I would have His favor and be rewarded with a life of ease. Religion is about dos and don’ts which result in punishment or rewards. I feared my heavenly Father and His penalty and that became my motivation to obey. Back then I had no idea what God thought of me, so I assumed I must have sinned and therefore earned God’s sentence. That kind of thinking resembles more of a master-slave mentality rather than a parent-child relationship.
Fortunately, I’m making progress; my relationship with God the Father has grown. I now know it’s not my holiness that gains me entrance into heaven, but God’s Son’s holiness. After receiving a diagnosis of cancer, not once did that old punishment mindset emerge. Nowadays I understand I John 4:18: “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.” This time I knew God loved me, not because I got it right all the time, not because I obeyed Him, but because I was His daughter, His little girl.
We fear punishment when we hook into a long list of religious dos and don’ts, when we think it’s only obedience which earns us favor with God. When in fact, our faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross is what gains us the right to eternal life.
Somewhere in the last twenty-eight years my heart has shifted and I’m making progress. I know I am loved by God, I know I have His favor, I know my heavenly Daddy is for me – not against me, and I know that everything that He allows is for my good, because I’m Daddy’s girl.
“Extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of extraordinary sins, but sometimes the trial of extraordinary graces.” Matthew Henry
Relevant Reflections: 1. Is your relationship with God more like master-slave or Father-child? How does that affect your perception of trials? 2. Has God’s perfect love for you driven out fear of punishment? 3. How have you made progress in your walk with God?