It seems that everywhere we look these days, every television program, every elected official, every news broadcast, even every sermon we hear, is all about being afraid. We are told to fear other people, fear other ideas, fear what is different, fear the known and fear the unknown, fear the future.
Be afraid of crime. Be afraid of immigrants. Be afraid of inflation. Be afraid.
We are a nation drowning in a sea of fear.
This is not the first time we have had to face this. In his 1933 Inaugural Address, incoming President Franklin Roosevelt – at the height of the Great Depression – said, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” During the 1950s – a time of extreme fear and suspicion – newsman Edward R. Murrow (a personal hero of mine) said,
We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our own history and our doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. Not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular…. There is no way for a citizen of the Republic to abdicate his responsibility.
As a lover of God and a follower of Jesus, I am especially moved by how many times the Bible tells us, “Do not fear.” By some counts, the phrase appears 365 times in the scriptures; that’s enough for one a day for an entire year! It’s clear from these verses that while fear may be common and understandable, it doesn’t have to rule our lives. Consider –
- God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Tim. 1:7)
- Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isa. 41:10)
- He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, … (Psa. 91:1-5)
- The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psa. 27:1)
It’s natural and normal – even healthy – to have a certain level of fear about the unknown, about new situations, or unfamiliar circumstances, but we cannot let that fear paralyze us into inaction, nor should we just retreat into the past and lash out against “the other.” When we are making a decision about something, we need to evaluate that choice, consider the pros and cons, seek the counsel of wise friends, and pray – but we must not let fear make the choice for us.
Meanwhile, there are things we can do to overcome fear –
Turn off the TV news. That may seem like a strange thing for a news guy to say, but so much of the national media is just mental poison, designed to hype up fear and hatred, and along the way, sell you whatever junk they’re peddling. Choose not to participate.
Focus on the positive. Computer programmers used to have a saying: Garbage in, garbage out. That applies to our heads and our hearts, as well. If all we’re feeding on is more and more fear, then it will dominate our thoughts and our feelings. Let’s do something different and fill our minds with things that are positive, encouraging, and uplifting. Read a book, listen to some good music, take a walk, reach out to an old friend.
Vote your values. We all know there is an election coming up, so here’s an idea: Don’t vote for a party. Listen to the candidates, and if all they’re offering is more fear and suspicion, then tell them “NO.” Instead, vote for whoever is offering the best ideas for how to move forward.
Let us not be dominated by fear, doubt, or suspicion. Let us overcome with faith, hope, and love.