While recently watching a documentary on the life of former U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, I learned something I never realized about the man. I knew the famous line he gave at his first inaugural, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” This has gone down as the trademark slogan from his presidency. I also knew that polio struck him in the prime of life and that he never walked again.
What I didn’t know about was the depression he struggled with while coping with his disability. I learned that he mastered his fear through this period of suffering. When he spoke those words to a nation in the grip of an economic and social depression in 1934, he spoke from an intense personal experience that defined his adult life. While fighting polio and rebuilding his life, he learned to overcome fear and increase courage.
America and other parts of the world need a dose of courage at this time in history as they face the fallout from terrorism and the efforts to combat world terror.
Recent weeks have brought out an unpleasant fact of American life. For several weeks two crazed snipers shot unsuspecting men and women around the suburbs of Washington, D.C. A fog of fear caught and held millions of people during the time when law enforcement officials were conducting one of the most intensive manhunts in the country’s history. Civic activities were canceled and men, women and children altered their routines until the two killers were finally apprehended.
Top officials are also warning that the threat from al Qaeda terrorists is the highest it has been since the summer of 2001. A group of experts recently reported their shocking conclusion: A year after Sept. 11, 2001, America remains dangerously unprepared to prevent and respond to a catastrophic attack on U.S. soil. In all likelihood, the next attack will result in greater casualties and widespread disruption to American lives and the economy. That’s serious. For all the warning and security-related work done since 9/11, there is very little that has been done to really prepare for another attack.
Sadly, the recent round of political elections in America did nothing to lessen this feeling of fear. No one seems to stand out with the leadership qualities that can inspire and lead people through a time of uncertainty with visions of hope and courage. No single candidate articulated a vision or showed the path to achieving it.
Fear arises from confusion and uncertainty. It feeds on a lack of purpose, identity and commitment. Courage comes from faith in God to protect, defend and care for His people. He told ancient Israel He would send “an Angel” before them to keep them and bring them into the land of Canaan (Exodus 23:20 Exodus 23:20Behold, I send an Angel before you, to keep you in the way, and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.
American King James Version×). Verse 27 follows with a promise that fear would be the enemy’s problem, not Israel’s: “I will send My fear before you, I will cause confusion among all the people to whom you come, and will make all your enemies turn their backs to you.” The same promise is available to nations today if they would turn to God and obey His voice (verse 22). Nations like America and the United Kingdom must rely on something greater than their allied military might in solving the complexity of the war on terror.
A key to dealing with fear is found in 1 John 4:18 1 John 4:18There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.
American King James Version×. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” We can find the antidote to fear in the genuine love for God and His ways. Peace of mind comes from knowing God’s great purpose and plan for life. When that knowledge guides our lives, it is part of God’s unswerving plan to include us in the restoration of all good things to this world. WNP