Lent Challenge – “Fear”
“There is nothing to fear but fear itself”, or so says Franklin D Roosevelt.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I think that he must have been very lucky in his life if he thought that fear was something ephemeral, shadowy and insubstantial to the extent that he could dismiss it with a phrase like that.
There is plenty of fear in the world that is not shadowy or ephemeral in the slightest.
Try asking an abused child about fear and they will tell you that it’s not the shadow on the back of their bedroom door that frightens them, but the supposed trusted adult who is in a position of responsibility over them who is unpredictable and violent towards them.
Try asking the child on the streets of Mumbai about fear, and they won’t tell you they are scared that the bank will slash interest rates again, driving down the value of their stock. They’ll tell you they fear not being able to find food that day, or that they will be forced to do something painful and degrading to be able to have enough money to buy food with.
Try asking a working man about the fear of losing his home. Not his holiday home, or the home built on land that his parents or grandparents own, the home that he has worked his fingers to the bone to finance with a bank. A bank that changes the goalposts on what it will and will not accept from its “customers” in terms of financial arrangements on a whim, leaving that man and his wife in desperate fear of homelessness and destitution. He’ll tell you what fear means to him, and it isn’t an intangible worry that lurks in his subconscious but a snarling, ferocious beast that dominates every ounce of his being.
Try asking a woman who has suffered at the hands of someone who supposedly loves her what fear is all about. She won’t tell you it is a wispy, edge-of-the-mind thought about someone lurking in the shadows as she walks home, waiting to jump out at her because she’s alone. She will tell you fear comes in the shape and feel of what is waiting for her when she walks through her own front door.
Fear can paralyse us, it can rob us of hope and ambition, and it can turn us into people we don’t want to be.
But there is hope, and where hope remains, fear cannot win.
Because if we hope – that someone will rescue us from our situation, or provide us with support to gain an education so we can work for a living wage, that someone will hear our cries of desperation or whatever it is we hope for – we can live.
And that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? That we live, and that we have hope and that we conquer fear.
If you are a Christian, you will perhaps be journeying this part of the calendar in Lent by reflecting on your life in God, and the hope that is offered if we believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you are of another faith or none, you might recognise something in what I have said about fear and hope. Whatever your belief system, I hope that fear does not play a part in your life, and that if you do have genuine fear about something or someone then you find something to cling to that will help you.
As for FDR, I can only assume that before he left his time here on Earth he had cause to reflect on the words he used about fear. It could be that what he said has been so paraphrased over the years to have lost its original meaning, or it could be that he said it because he was in a difficult position as a leader of a great nation with its back up against the wall and he needed to inspire his people, not frighten them further.
Whatever the truth and whatever his motivation, I have shown a little bit of what it is to feel fear, and to be frightened of things that are very real and painful. If all we had to fear was fear itself then the world would not be the painful, dark, destructive and divisive place it is. The opposite of fear is hope, and it is my hope that fear will one day be banished from this world. I suspect it won’t be, and it is only on the other side of life will we find the peace and lightness of spirit so many of us crave.