The date was March 4, 1933, FDR’s first inauguration. The country was still reeling from the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s full quote was this, “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is… fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Fear paralyzes us. It leads us to crawl deep into our shells. It keeps us from moving forward. It keeps us from living.
Terrorism literally causes terror. It feeds our greatest fears – an unseen enemy attacking where we are weakest: on planes, at work, at sporting events, at community centers.
Terrorism works. We would be lying if we said otherwise. Terrorism instills terror. It causes us to look over our shoulders, to shut down our airports, to distrust our neighbors. It keeps us from living.
So how do we keep fear from paralyzing us? How do we live when “we walk in danger all the way” as the hymn writer says?
We ask God for courage. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is facing our fears. Courage is standing firm even when we are afraid. Courage is trusting God’s promises.
The Children of Israel were not facing an unseen enemy. They could see their enemy just across the Jordan River. They could see the mighty warriors, the great armies, the fortified cities waiting for them on the other side.
Moses told them, “Be strong and courageous… The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:7,8)
We can be courageous, we can live our lives – we can board airplanes and go to sporting events – because our God promises to be by our side the entire way. Are there dangers lurking around the corner? Yes. Could terrorists attack at any time? You bet.
But our God promises to be with us and to make all things work for our eternal good. He promises to deliver us from evil – even if evil men attack and kill us.
Jesus himself said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
In other words, the only thing we have to fear is… God himself.
Terrorists can kill your body, but they cannot touch your soul. God is the one who sends souls to hell. He is the one who punishes sinners. Hell should terrify you. God is the only thing we would ever need to be afraid of.
And yet you don’t have to be afraid of God because he loved you so much he suffered the wrath of his own punishment in your place. Jesus faced his fears and courageously suffered the terror of the cross you deserve. You are forgiven. You don’t have to be afraid of hell. You don’t have to be afraid of God, and therefore, you don’t have to be afraid of anything.
They can’t win. Even if you have to suffer, God will be with you and make it work for your good. Even if they kill you, you have a home in the glory of heaven waiting for you because of Jesus.
So take a deep breath. Face your fears. Be courageous!