Dealing with Fear in Your Marriage

“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” – 1 John 4:18

In the last two weeks we have looked at the fear of God and how it gives us stronger marriages. Fear can work in positive ways in marriage. But the wrong kind of fear can have devastating effects.

This week we’ll discover from God’s Word the right way to deal with the wrong kind of fear in marriage.

The passage we’ll focus on is found in 1 John 4. Toward the end of the chapter, John says:  “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” (1 John 4:18, bold mine).

As we’ve learned, the type of fear being referred to in a Scripture passage depends on its context. Here in 1 John 4 fear is referring to a “terror fear”–being afraid harm will come to you.  We know this because punishment is involved.

In our previous teaching we saw that this type of fear can be good. It is a positive thing when this fear leads us away from doing ungodly things to one another that might bring harm to our relationship with God and each other.

However, this terror fear can also be destructive when it drives us away from God and pulls us away from each other.

We see this type of fear whenever we avoid communicating with our spouse because we’re afraid to upset them, or we’re angry with them, or we’re ashamed of what we’ve done. The same can be said about our relationship with God.

There are many other ways this terror fear can become obvious. But there is always some kind of underlying anticipated punishment that keeps us away from each other. It separates us. And separation is never a good thing in marriage.

So what can you do if you find yourself being afraid of some kind of punishment in your relationship with God or in your marriage? How can you rid yourself of this type of harmful fear?

Let’s look again at 1 John 4 for the answer.

God’s Word says love displaces fear. The two cannot co-exist. The Greek word that is translated “love” in the verse above is “agape.” It is a love that puts the good of the other person ahead of your own.

When you love your spouse like this, he or she has no need to fear you. They can see you are only looking out for their best and would never want to hurt them. There is safety in this love.

This is exactly how God loves us. We read about it in 1 John 4:9-10: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

We can also read about His agape love in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

When we understand God’s love for us, we can then truly love Him. In doing so, we will truly love each other. And the terror fear will be gone from our hearts and our relationship.

So the first step to overcoming terror fear in your life and marriage is to accept God’s loving gift of salvation. (For more information on this, see Meet Jesus.) Then we can truly love each other with selfless agape love.

John also tells us: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love….11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:7-8, 11-12).

When this type of love encompasses your marriage, the wrong kind fear will be driven away.

God’s formula for marriage is a rather simple one: First love God and fear Him with reverent fear. Then love each other with the love God has given to you.

This is exactly what Jesus taught. When asked about which of God’s commands was the greatest: “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments’” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Fear will disappear from your life and marriage when you know that God loves you. You will be confident in God’s love when you obey His commands.

Jesus said in John 14:15: If you love me, keep my commands.”

We don’t follow God’s commands so that we can be saved. We are saved when we accept His gracious gift by placing our faith in Jesus. Ephesians 2:8-9 says: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” 

We follow God’s commands because He loves us and has saved us. We can never thank Him enough. We know of His love for us because of what He has done for us.

A number of God’s commands are aimed at making marriage the joyful union He intends it to be. These commands often include genuine agape love.

One such command is Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

A result of God’s loving us and us giving our lives to Christ is found in John 14:16-17: “‘And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.’”

We are confident in God’s love when we give our lives to Him. He sends the Holy Spirit to assure us, to help us obey His Word, and to give us the confidence promised above. He sends the Holy Spirit to us so we can genuinely love Him and each other.

This kind of love takes away terror fear—the kind of fear that robs us of joy. And it allows there to be reverence fear for God. It allows us to live out the truths we discover in 1 John 4 and all of God’s Word.

The reverence fear of God impacts both our love for God and each other. And as we all know, love is essential to a strong marriage. There cannot be a good marriage without the love of God and our love for each other.

God’s Word tells us that God is the epitome of love and all true love comes from Him. We can only truly understand love and learn to love Him and each other when Jesus is Savior of our lives and the Lord of our marriage. This is the love that flows from God to us and through us. A beautiful love that intertwines our hearts to each other and to Him.

text divider


♦   Read this week’s teaching together. Discuss what God taught you through it.

♦   What other verses about God’s love can you think of? How do these verses apply to our discussion about the fear of God and its application to your marriage? Here is a webpage that can help you: Vine’s Dictionary: LOVE (

♦   How do the fear of God and the love of God apply to one another? How do they apply to your marriage?

♦   Discuss ways you can show the fear and love of God to others. To each other?

♦   End your time together in prayer. Ask God to help you fear Him with reverence fear. Ask Him to help you apply what you learned in this week’s lesson to your lives and marriage.

text divider

May God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,

Other posts in the FEAR OF GOD IN MARRIAGE series:
The Fear and Comfort of God: Your Marriage Needs Both
A Stronger Marriage Through the Fear of the Lord
All Scripture is from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Photo by Karl Fredrickson via (CC0), cropped/text added.

About David Penley

A devoted husband and father, former pastor and seminary professor, who longs to grow closer to the likeness of Christ each day and share God's love and truth with everyone.