Lessons from the 1940s – Freedom from Fear

Seventy years ago, the world was a fearsome place. Nazi Germany controlled most of western continental Europe and pummeled Britain with almost daily bombings, militarist Japan was brutalizing coastal China, and Fascist Italy was making dangerous progress in eastern Africa toward Britain’s vital Suez Canal. The United States wasn’t at war, but faced two terrifying choices – to go to war, or to let evil win.

On January 6, 1941, in his State of the Union Address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that everyone deserved four fundamental freedoms – freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from fear, and freedom from want. At the time, the Axis dictators stifled freedom of speech and worship, and conquered peoples lived in great fear and want.

Within five years, the governments that had caused so much fear and death were toppled. The external triggers of fear were removed – but did fear disappear?

The human mind is inclined to fear. This can benefit us as we imagine possible dangers and protect ourselves. A healthy amount of fear motivates us to do our best work on the job, to fasten our seatbelts, to vaccinate our children, to save for the future, and to brush and floss.

But fear has a tendency to worm inside, make itself at home, and spread its poison. Fear of ridicule can keep us from doing the right thing. Fear of failure – or success – can paralyze us on the job. Fear of being hurt can impede true friendship and love. Fear of whatever threat is popular on the internet this week can disrupt our lives.

This is no way to live. The most common command in the Bible is “Do not fear!” God wants us to trust Him completely, and fear is a lack of trust. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” We should let His perfect love drive out fear (1 John 4:18) and live in the freedom God desires for us.

Only in the Lord will we ever find true freedom from fear.