On March 4, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt presented his inaugural address during one of the darkest times of the nation’s history. The United States was in the grip of what would be called The Great Depression. The nation desperately needed hope and encouragement as the newly elected president began his first term of office. So, in his opening remarks, he used ten words (I’ve put in bold type) that has become famous for all time. He starts out,
I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, 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….
Not only Americans, but all humans have fear of one kind or another and at one time or another. No matter one’s age, gender, race, or creed, human fear like the kind the 32nd president of the United States described —nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance— needs to be addressed lest we fall into the kind of depression that paralyzes and destroys our lives.
There are countless kinds of fears that would take volumes to write about. And, indeed, volumes have already been written and reported about it. But at the crux of any fear is fear itself—an observation not only made by FDR but other notable persons:
- The thing I fear most is fear. —Michel Eyquem De Montaigne, 1580
- Nothing is terrible except fear itself.—Sir Francis Bacon, 1623
- The only thing I am afraid of is fear.—Duke of Wellington, 1831
- Nothing is so much to be feared as fear.—Henry David Thoreau, 1841
You might like to know that the medical jargon for the fear of fear is phobophobia. It comes from the Greek word, “phobos” which includes an extreme fear. It’s the kind of fear that brings on feelings of horror and terror which causes people to think and act irrationally.
When we see or hear people making statements that seem to make no sense at all, yet stirring up strife, insecurity, and danger among others, then we wonder about their underlying fears. How can we trust what these fearmongers are saying? They could be anyone from your closest friend to your most admired Hollywood entertainer, to your favorite politician to your most trusted media. Like a life-threatening cancer, they spread their phobic fear to infect fear in others, and maybe in you as well, whether they do it consciously or unconsciously; intentionally or unintentionally. Regardless the situation, panic soon follows.
Fearing fear is a fearful experience that we prefer not to fear because we know its fateful results. According to experts, those most vulnerable to phobophobia are those who are afraid of disclosing their fears for fear of being exposed. This, in itself, sparks anxiety and panic disorders of many kinds due to unreasonable fears.
As Christians, we understand that there is a way to resist the fear of fear and prevent the dire results. Although some might think it sounds contradictive to propose this, but the best way to deal with our fear is having the fear of God. In fact, if there’s anything that we SHOULD be afraid of, it’s if we DO NOT fear God.
It’s been anonymously said, “When you fear God, you having nothing else to fear.”
Such a statement about fearing God is not without Biblical backup. In, The Faith That Satisfies, William Anderson is cited,
This phrase “fear of the Lord” occurs over and over and over. I was really surprised to find more than three hundred references in the Old Testament that speak of the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is reverential trust and hatred of evil, and there you have the whole thing.
Point well-taken. It says in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding,” (New American Standard Bible, NASB). It’s a good thing to fear God because it helps us to deal wisely with our own fears. We do not need to fear fear because the fear of the LORD provides the antidote to the underlying fears that plague us.
Distinguished pastor and author, A.W. Tozer once wrote that the fear of God is essentially, “astonished reverence.” He went on to assert,
I believe that the reverential fear of God mixed with love and fascination and astonishment and admiration and devotion is the most enjoyable state and the most satisfying emotion the human soul can know. (as cited from, Whatever Happened to Worship).
When our fear of God grows, phobophobia shrinks. Knowing that God is watching us while watching over us moves us to live by faith and not by unreasonable fear. Striving to live and serve him in the contentment of his holiness, love, and truth, relieves us of having to deal with our fears no matter how deep or shallow they may appear.
So, if you’re afraid to face your fears, remember that fearing the LORD will bring you good health and a better life: “Trust the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body, and refreshment to your bones,” (Prov. 3:5-8, NASB).
Good News to YOU!
P.S. When we place our fear at the disposal of our fear of God, we discover an amazing thing: the love of God swelling in our hearts. The One who makes this possible is God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who personifies God’s holiness, love, and truth. Jesus generates the “perfect love that casts out fear” (1 John 4:18) including the kind of fear that keeps us from accepting him as the Lord and Savior of our lives. Here’s Zach Williams presenting the official lyric video, “Fear Is a Liar,” http://youtu.be/sQTnREEtuNk