In his first inaugural address to a country mired in the depths of the Great Depression, FDR struck a note of optimism.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Nothing to be afraid of…except being afraid?
I’m not so sure.
Lots of fear these days, related to all sorts of issues. Much of that fear, sadly, is manufactured by those who seek to divide and control. Social media magnifies regrettable efforts to weaponize fear.
A while back, during our TAOS TO TUCSON Tour, I wrote about a conversation that followed a fun evening with a great group of students.
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She’s a college junior, perhaps 21 or 22 years old. From my perspective, it was a great question.
“What are you afraid of?”
She blurted out a list, a litany of seemingly everything that could possibly go wrong in this young woman’s life. “Whoa,” I chuckled, “you really are afraid of everything!”
“Yes,” she replied, “and I don’t know why.”
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We talked a while about why she avoided things that weren’t all that risky, weren’t very likely to happen, or didn’t have a huge downside. She wondered if she lacked courage.
I told her I thought maybe she misunderstood, that perhaps she wasn’t really very afraid of the things on her list.
“What if the thing you really fear is fear? What if you’re afraid…of being afraid?”
I think we expect “normal” life to be free of fear, so when we’re afraid we believe something’s wrong. Fear becomes something to be avoided…something, in FDR’s words, to fear.
But what if fear isn’t abnormal? What if it’s part of life, especially a life of doing worthwhile, meaningful work? What if we learn to expect a certain amount of fear as the price of following the dream?
The enemy would like us to be deathly afraid of being afraid, to avoid fear at all costs. Because that kind of elemental fear limits us, controls us, defines us. When we’re afraid of fear we hide in the corner and settle for safe…no risks, no God-sized dreams.
Jesus comes to us in the midst of struggle and says, “Take courage. I am. Don’t be afraid.” He doesn’t say we shouldn’t feel fear, because why would we need courage if there’s no fear?
Jesus invites us to face the fear, to be courageous, not because we’re strong but because He is. He offers to stand with us so we can face the fear rather than allowing it to control us.
Fear’s part of life, part of following the dream. Rather than denying, pretending nothing’s there, let’s be honest. We have plenty to fear. We also have a way past the fear.