“We have nothing to fear but fear itself”.
When Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke those famous words; America was gripped by fear amidst the Great Depression. But his message – not to let fear overwhelm us – echoes Christ’s teachings.
Throughout the Gospels, Christ implores us to move from fear to faith. He calmed the storm to remove the disciples’ fear of perishing (Matthew 8:23-27). He reassured Mary Magdalene in the garden, turning her fear to joy (John 20:14-18). And with the paralysed man, Jesus says “Take heart, your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:2). Forgiveness overcomes fear.
FDR recognised that America needed to replace fear with faith in themselves and each other to recover. Likewise, Christ knows that faith casts out fear. The faithful need not dread the future, come what may, for their lives are in God’s hands.
On an individual level, we must check the fears holding us back from fulfilling our duties. God calls us to take leaps of faith, not to remain in our comfort zone. Of course, hesitation has its place, but it must be balanced with courage.
Christ does not call us to cower in complacency. He wants us to step out, as Peter did when walking on water with eyes fixed on Jesus (Matthew 14:22-33). With faith in God, we can achieve far more than fear permits.
At times of collective crisis, like the Depression or the pandemic, our fears can divide us when unity is most needed. Here too, the Gospel teachings are relevant.
Jesus prayed at Gethsemane that his followers “may become perfectly one” (John 17:23). Faith in Him brings people together across divisions. Whereas fear drives separation, faith promotes harmony. This was FDR’s hope for America, as it should be ours today.
Of course, fear cannot simply be wished away. The dangers it warns against are real. But FDR recognised that courage comes from within, even in troubled times. With faith in God and oneself, fear need not be master over us.
The Depression did not end through anxiety but through the hope, action and unity that faith inspires. Christ shows us the way from fear to faith. Let us follow His example, individually and collectively. For the Gospel, reminds us: the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.