Perfect Love Casts Out Fear
Does fear plague you? Trillia Newbell, director of Community Outreach for the Southern Baptist Convention, talks about her long battle with fear. Newbell talks about the death of her father, and the fear she had of displeasing her husband. Newbell reminds believers to take every thought captive, and to fear the Lord, rather than man.
About the Guest
Trillia Newbell talks about the death of her father, and the fear she had of displeasing her husband. Newbell reminds believers to take every thought captive, and to fear the Lord, rather than man.
Perfect Love Casts Out Fear
Bob: As a young wife, Trillia Newbell wanted to love and serve her husband well—a godly ambition—but she explains how that godly ambition ended up becoming a snare for her.
Trillia: One of my greatest fears used to be that I wouldn’t be enough for him—not now—but that I would serve him well. I wanted to be this perfect wife / this perfect bride—whatever that is! So, this—I think goes back to the fear of man. In my desire to love and serve him, I would fear that I would displease him and I wouldn’t be enough.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, October 10th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll hear, today, how the opposite of fear isn’t courage—it’s faith. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Why don’t you remind our listeners about what is engraved on the inside—is it your wedding band, too, or just Barbara’s?
Dennis: You know, that’s a good question. I haven’t pulled it off and looked at it—in fact, I tried to read it the other day—
Bob: Well, it’s been on there for 40-plus years. So, it’s probably worn down a little bit.
Dennis: —it really is worn down. First John, Chapter 4, talks about perfect love casting out all fear. Basically, when we married, we both determined we were both a pair of scaredy cats—now, not really—but we had a lot of fears as singles. I think, today, because singles are waiting until later in life to marry, they are loaded with fears as they date, as they approach the possibility of getting married, and then, get married, moving forward.
And our guest on the program today is nodding her head as though, maybe, she had a few fears when she was dating her husband Thern, all the way back to 2003, when you guys married.
Did you, Trillia?
Trillia: Yes! Well, a lot of unknowns. You’re questioning more about your future and probably a lot more hesitant. I think that you see that in singles. I see that—I have a girlfriend who has experienced that—where the men are noncommittal—
Dennis: Oh, yes. Well, you’ve written a book called Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves. I think Trillia Newbell has the longest title of any human being we’ve ever introduced, here on FamilyLife Today, in terms of what she does. She is a consultant on the Women’s Initiatives for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention and Russell Moore. [Laughter]
Trillia: That’s funny.
Dennis: You do work with Russell, who is a good friend of ours.
Trillia: I do, and he is wonderful. And I’m now the Director of Community Outreach. So, that is—
Bob: Do we just add that to the growing title here? [Laughter]
Trillia: I know, it’s like the longest title ever. Well, it’s not the title that’s long—it’s the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. [Laughter]
Bob: Southern Baptist Convention—that’s right.
Trillia: That is forever!
Dennis: Well, it’s a great organization the Southern Baptists have founded; because Russell and you do a great job of addressing a lot of thorny issues in our culture, especially that we have to deal with around marriage and family / gender issues today.
I’ve got to ask you: “Why did you write a book about fear? Was it that big of an issue for you?”
Trillia: Absolutely. It’s not just a big issue for me—it’s a big issue for many. I recognized that it was something that I was struggling with in my own life; and then, as I would write an article or speak with women, what I realized is that everyone struggles with fear.
It is broad—fear of man, fear of what others think of you, to fear the future, fear of tragedy. I wrote this book, not as someone who has arrived, but as someone who has learned to fight for faith; and I wanted to encourage and give hope to others.
Bob: Were you a fearful child when you were growing up?
Bob: Were you afraid to go to the top of the monkey bars or whatever else?
Trillia: Not at all. I was—actually did gymnastics so I could do a backflip—
Dennis: Oh, yes.
Trillia: —in college; yes. So, I was—I lacked a lot of fear. It’s when I started to experience tragedy, I think, is when I started to realize more and more that life can be hard. I’ve had four miscarriages, and the death of my father, the death of my oldest sister—and just these tragedies, I think, is when I started to realize, “Oh, I’m struggling with fear.”
Then, when I became a Christian, one of the things that God / one of the first things He did was help me realize that I was living so much of my life for myself—but also for my father.
I realized that I was living and operating under the fear of man so much. As God revealed that to me, more and more, I saw how I feared what other people thought of me.
Bob: But it was your relationship with your dad—and fear about how he viewed you—was that kind of where the genesis of a fearful spirit came from with you?
Trillia: Yes and no—not fear of how he viewed me, because he was always so encouraging and he was an incredible encouragement; but what I realized is that I had spent a lot of my life living for his praise / living for his approval, even though I had it—I had it. He never put any pressure—he was so encouraging, but I wanted to make sure I pleased my dad.
So, when I became a Christian and my father had passed away, I realized, “Oh, so much of my life has been trying to make sure that I please people.”
It really affected me as I understood salvation and that I am already pleasing to the Lord—because of Jesus / because of His sacrifice—and God looks to Jesus. Now, I can obey, but it’s not because I am going to earn anything. It’s already been earned.
It’s just changed my view on all sorts of things but also, how I lived and what I was thinking. Now, I still struggle with the fear of man. I have to fight that temptation to be concerned about what other people think about me.
Bob: We all face that; right?
Trillia: Yes; absolutely—but it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance and His kindness to reveal our sin to us. That was one area that I think, in the very beginning, the Lord revealed to me.
Bob: And I think it’s helpful for us to stop for a minute and think:
“It’s not that we shouldn’t care, at some level, about how other people view us—but when we are controlled by that—
Bob: —“that’s the difference between wanting to be aware of and caring about being pleasing to other people. But when that controls you / when that’s what’s making the decisions in your life—that’s where this fear has gotten out of control.”
Dennis: And I think, at this point, you have to go back and say, “What, really, is the definition of fear?” The word, actually, means flight.
Dennis: And what fear means—if you go all back to the Garden, it’s the first response to what Adam and Eve did when they disobeyed God and were filled with pride—
Dennis: —when they wanted to be their own god. The first manifestation of sin was fear. Now, all fear is not sin—
Dennis: —but some fear is. How do you determine the difference between the two?
Trillia: I think when you are putting your hope in something else—
—so you are fearful of the future, you’re fearful of tragedy, fearful of—you’re placing your hope in money. That is a clear indication that you are not fearing what you should fear—which is the Lord—and that fear leads to worship, and trust, and peace, and rest—where fear / the sin fear leads to anxiety. It can lead to depression. It can lead to sinful anger. It can lead to untrue thoughts.
I think part of evaluating if you fear rightly is to evaluate your heart response and, sometimes, your physical response to it. I do think there is a healthy fear as well. If I’m walking down a street and I have the option: “Okay; I’m by myself. I’m going to go down this dark alley, or I’m going to go where there are a bunch of people,”—I think God has given us this emotion for discernment. I’m not going to go down that dark alley.
I’m going to be discerning and, really, fear Him—
Trillia: —and go where there are people and light. So, I think that you do—you have to evaluate—and get to the root and ask the Lord to reveal your heart.
Bob: We’re talking with Trillia Newbell, who has written a book called Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves.
I think you make a great point, which is—there are places in Scripture where we are commanded to fear.
Bob: We’re commanded to fear God / to honor His commandments. There is a healthy respect and reverence for proper authority and proper danger—to be aware of that. But that’s not the kind of fear that most people are dealing with on a daily basis.
Dennis: No; and I think that’s why, Bob, there are 365 “fear not’s”—
Dennis: —in the Bible. Fear and faith cannot coexist. The way to deal with fear is to face it down and ask yourself the question: “Am I believing the truth about God”—
Dennis: —“and about His control of my life and His desires for my life? Does He love me?”
Trillia: Right; yes.
Dennis: And I think the same thing would be true as you deal with your spouse as well. If there’s a major fear in your marriage, are you believing the truth about your spouse or not? For instance, in your relationship with Thern, what is one of your greatest fears in your marriage?
Trillia: I think one of my greatest fears used to be that I wouldn’t be enough for him—not now—but that I would serve him well. I wanted to be this perfect wife / this perfect bride—whatever that is! This, I think, goes back into the fear of man. In my desire to love and serve him, I would fear that I would displease him and that I wouldn’t be enough.
He is the most loving, gentle, and kind man that I know; and I am so grateful for that.
So, fear is often irrational. There is absolutely no reason for me to fear that I would not be pleasing or enough for my husband. I make that up in my head. We all must take captive our thoughts, and really submit it to the Lord, and ask Him to help us. So, in my marriage, that would have been that I wouldn’t measure up.
Bob: Is that a fear that, if you don’t measure up—I mean, in the back of your mind, were you thinking: “If I don’t please him / if I’m not the kind of wife I ought to be—that he will lose interest in me, he’ll wander from the relationship, [or] that something will cause us to move toward isolation”? Do you think that was behind that?
Trillia: I didn’t fear that he would walk away. I just didn’t want to be displeasing. I just wanted to—it’s the fear of man. It’s pride, really.
Trillia: Proverbs calls the fear of man a snare. It’s like a trap—it sucks you in, and it makes you do things, and think things, and act in a way that you normally wouldn’t.
I just think that that’s all it was, by the grace of God.
Now, I do know other women who would struggle with that fear—and this is the fear of the future: “Will my husband walk away? Will he be devoted to me?”
Dennis: Well, especially, in this culture; huh?
Trillia: Well, sure; yes!
Bob: I think, even when there’s been no indication in the relationship—
Bob: —even a wife who would say, “If I think rationally, I don’t have any reason to believe my husband would ever leave the marriage; but there’s still something because it happened with my mom,” or “…because it happened with my aunt,”—or something that causes us to go, “I guess it could happen to me.”
Trillia: Or “…it happened with my friend.”
Dennis: Everybody’s got a context, especially if you’ve been impacted by divorce in the family of origin that you came from. Then, your defenses have been invaded / you’ve experienced what it means for two people to break up / to break their covenant.
What about physical appearance?
Trillia: Oh, gosh; yes—[Laughter]—with my husband; yes / but with myself too! I think women, in particular, really struggle with this desire.
And when you’re talking about culture—that, I think, is a cultural, societal pressure to be this certain model/Photoshopped-looking person. God says that it’s a woman who fears the Lord who is to be praised. All of this is vain/fleeting—but yes; it is a struggle for us / it is a struggle—body image. It’s a definite fear—it is just that we wouldn’t be accepted or acceptable, even to ourselves; yes. I think that we get the pressure, even in greater ways, from culture. I mean, all you have to do—and I wouldn’t encourage you to do this—is to look on the racks, as you’re checking out / all those magazines.
Bob: Oh, yes.
Trillia: We’re being sold a lie; and we’re being told that, in order to be great, you have to look a certain way. God says just the absolute opposite, and it wasn’t about outward appearance; right? It was a gentle and quiet spirit that God is after. He’s not after women who can flaunt certain things.
Now, is it okay to take care of yourself?—absolutely. It is absolutely fine.
Trillia: But it’s when we make these things gods—little “g” gods—
Trillia: —idols—and we begin to fear. Our response, in that, can be obsession with our weight or obsession with how we look / outward appearance. That is when we get into danger.
Dennis: You know, there is another area we haven’t talked about here that I think is fueled by fear—
Dennis: —and that is our performance and our busy schedules.
Dennis: It seems that moms today are more hurried and pushing their kids to do the same, because they’re trying to perform.
It really goes back a little to what we talked about earlier about wanting to please people—
Dennis: —wanting the approval of people. How does this snare you, as a woman?
Trillia: I have learned that you have to say, “No,” It’s hard, because you want to be at every birthday party that you’re invited to. You want to make sure your kids experience life; but not at the expense of, for me, the dinner table. As long as we’re there, in town, we have dinner together every single night. So, for me—I think I’m just learning the art of saying, “No,” and slowing down. It’s incredibly hard.
I remember, one time, my kids were looking at a snail; and they were so fascinated. We didn’t have to be anywhere at all, but I was like: “Come on, kids! Come on! Come on!”
Then, I realized, “What am I hurrying for?!” Immediately, I felt this conviction from the Lord that they are delighting and enjoying His creation; and I am hurrying to nothing. I don’t know what I need to hurry for. At that moment, I was able to stop, and slow down, and allow my kids to enjoy God’s creation. I think what our temptation is—is to try to “Keep with the Joneses”—that phrase—and to do just too much. That would be my struggle too.
Dennis: What is your advice to a woman, who is listening right now: “That’s me. I’m trading hurry, but what I really need is peace. I need those moments like you had with your children, who got you stopped long enough to see the wonder of a tiny, little creature.” What is your advice for that woman?
Trillia: You’re not missing out if you don’t say, “Yes,” to some activity or if you don’t say, “Yes,” to whatever is pulling you.
You will miss out if you say, “No,” to your kids. And that, to me, is a lesson that I’m learning—is that, if I am filling my life with so much other, then, I’m going to miss out. I’m not missing out if I say, “No,” to something that’s outside of that.
Bob: And this is where I think all of us have to regularly recalibrate what’s important—
Bob: —because the culture, all the time, will tell you: “No; this is important,” “No; this is important,” and your flesh will tell you—
Trillia: My flesh—that’s what I was thinking. [Laughter]
Bob: —“This is important.” Then, the devil pulls you aside and says, “Here is what’s really important.”
Bob: And we’ve got to pull back and say: “Okay, I’m not going to be directed by what the culture says. I’m not going to be directed by what my flesh says. I’m not going to be directed, certainly, by what the devil says.
Bob: “I’m going to be directed by what God’s Word says, in terms of where priorities ought to be. If I’m going to fear anything, it’s that I displeased God—
—“not that I displease the culture or don’t satisfy my flesh.”
Trillia: And I’ve failed here. I have failed to really evaluate my time well. It’s helpful that I have a husband who will speak into my life and a church that will help me. I can really look and think, “Okay, this is actually what’s important,” because it is hard with all of these various—like you’ve said—the flesh and culture speaking to you—it’s hard. You really have to evaluate and be prayerful—ask God: “What really is the best use of my time? What really will be most glorifying to You?”
Dennis: I look back over my life, and I think of the lessons that God has taught me as I’ve dealt with fear. And it really does go back to faith—
Dennis: —and it goes back to: “Am I believing the right thing about God? Does He have my back? Does He love me?
“Does He have a plan for my life?” And when we go through difficult times, where—for instance, I recall the time when Barbara nearly died with a rapid heart rate of over 300 beats a minute.
Dennis: I’m sitting out in the coronary care unit, wondering if I’m going to be a single parent of two children—two and under. Those are very real fears.
Dennis: At those moments, you’ve got to go back to the Bible—
Dennis: —and the truth of the Bible. The question is: “What is the truth about God? What has He said about your life? Does He have a plan? Does He love you, and do you believe that?”
Dennis: And if you do that, I think faith causes fear to take flight. I think fear can’t coexist with faith. You’re either afraid, or you are trusting God. You’re moving in one direction or the other. So, a good question out of the broadcast today is: “What’s the fear factor in your life?”
You can measure that by: “What’s the faith factor in your life too? Are you really trusting God with that which is troubling you today?” He invites you to bring all your cares to Him—
Dennis: —to cast them on Him. Don’t worry about it.
My mom had a little pet nickname for me—she called me a worry-wart. I think I have a DNA of fear and worry. Fear is kind of the big brother of worry. It’s when—
Dennis: —worry truly gives birth to a big bully. Fear can control your life, as you shared today.
Bob: Okay; I have just two words for you—Hakuna matata—okay? [Laughter] It means, “No worries for the rest of your days,”—[Laughter]—it’s: “You’re trouble-free.”
Dennis: We don’t live in that culture, though, Bob. That is not our culture today.
Trillia: That’s right.
Bob: I do think there is an undercurrent / kind of a hidden epidemic of fearful-hearted people inside the church.
This is not something we talk about—we keep it secret / we keep it cordoned off—but if someone will open the door and say, “Let’s talk about what we might be afraid of,” there can be a lot of healing that will go on if we do that. That’s why I’m thinking—if women were to get together—or men, for that matter—get a copy of Trillia’s book, Fear and Faith—and you’ve got a study guide that goes with the book that’s available on your website; right?
Bob: And I know there is a video series that goes with it as well. Go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com; and you can get more information about Fear and Faith, the book from Trillia Newbell. You can order copies of the book from us. And if you’d like the study guide, we’ve got a link at FamilyLifeToday.com that will take you to Trillia’s site. You can get the study guide there. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. If you’d like to order the book by phone, call 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk about how we deal with fears and anxieties in our lives: “What can we do when we are faced with fear?” We’ll talk more about that tomorrow. Hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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