FDR said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Most Americans today would beg to differ.
America has long been known as “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Let’s hope it’s not time to change that to “the home of the fearful.”
A new survey by the Gallup organization finds that our worries about terrorism and race relations have increased dramatically over the last year.
The percentage of Americans who worry “a great deal” about a terrorist attack climbed 12 points from 2014, to 51 percent right now. Concerns about race relations are up 11 points to 28 percent. Fear over illegal immigration also jumped by six percent. Overall, solid majorities worry most about getting and affording healthcare and about the state of the economy, in addition to fears about terrorism. Clearly, the headlines play a role in stoking our fears.
While the threat of Islamist terrorism appears to be growing in the still relatively secure United States, imagine how you would feel as a Christian parent in an area of the world that is manifestly less safe—such as the Horn of Africa.
Actually, you don’t have to imagine it. An article in Christianity Today’s her.menuetics blog by Rachel Pieh Jones puts you right there. Rachel is a native of Minnesota who lives with her husband and three children in Djibouti, a small nation abutting Somalia, the base of al-Shabaab, the militant group that recently slaughtered 148 Christians at a school in Garissa, Kenya.
“After the Westgate shopping mall attack in Kenya in 2013,” Rachel writes, “I can barely go to the grocery store without wondering if this is when I die, while buying apples and Corn Flakes. After a suicide bomb in downtown Djibouti last year, I can’t eat at the gelato shop without the flashing question, Is this where I die? Friends, fear is a natural response—even for a Christian. “I fear a lot of things,” she admits. “Malaria. Loneliness. Physical pain. I can’t sleep the nights my kids are flying between Djibouti and Kenya for school. Easter Sunday after the Garissa attacks I noticed that our church hadn’t placed any armed guards outside like they often do on holidays.”
Rachel doesn’t stop there, however, in the state of fear. She runs to Jesus, who rebuked the powers that be, who slept through a storm, who prayed with desperate faith the night he was betrayed.
Rachel writes, “I would rather go with this Jesus into my fear than be left behind, safe and on my own. … Safe is an illusion, and my lust for it can do nothing to guarantee it. When the disease comes, when the plane crashes, when bombs burst, when loved ones grow old, right there in the middle of brokenness, fear, and the utter destruction of any illusion of safety, I need Jesus.”
An old hymn says Jesus is “the name that charms our fears.” My colleague, author Stan Guthrie, says something similar in his book “All That Jesus Asks.” Reflecting on Jesus’ command not to fear those who kill the body but to fear God instead, Stan writes, “Fear will come, no matter what. Fear is a fact of any thinking person’s existence. But it matters supremely what the object of our fear is. Jesus says that since we are going to fear anyway, it makes more sense to fear God, not men.”
Yes, and when it comes to fear, our worldview—the Christian belief in an omnipotent, loving Father who sent His Son to overcome the world—matters. It steadies us to share the hope we have in Christ with a lost world that needs to know the perfect love that casts out all fear.
— by Eric Metaxas
Metaxas is currently the voice of Breakpoint, a radio commentary (www.breakpoint.org). Copyright© 2015 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries.