fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Behold, all who are incensed against you
shall be put to shame and confounded;
those who strive against you
shall be as nothing and shall perish.
You shall seek those who contend with you,
but you shall not find them;
those who war against you
shall be as nothing at all.
For I, the Lord your God,
hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, “Fear not,
I am the one who helps you.”
“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself…”
This familiar and iconic phrase is from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first Inaugural Address delivered on March 4, 1933. He was addressing his remarks to a nation still in the grip of the Great Depression. Rampant business failures, unemployment hovering around 25%, wages cut for those lucky enough to have a job, savings exhausted and the banking system on the verge of collapse. The second part of that same sentence is seldom heard, but is as important as the beginning. It reads like this: “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Roosevelt was trying to reassure a fearful nation where individual citizens were caught up in a year’s—long whirlwind of events over which they felt little or no control. He was coming into office, quite literally, with the weight of the country on his shoulders. He warned, that unreasoning hopelessness leads to paralysis instead of meaningful action. He noted that although everyone was facing similar “common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things.” A good line for a political speech, perhaps; but when one is trying to navigate through intractable life situations, knowing someone else is suffering provides no assurance that their very real and necessary material things will be taken care of.
Some can recall times in life when fear was overwhelming. Loss of a job unexpectedly, a devastating illness, disintegration of a family, a loved one struggling, a relationship gone bad, questions about the strength of our faith; the list goes on. Fear can seem like a weight pressing down so hard as to suffocate us. Stress, confusion, anxiety can change one in surprising ways. If you’ve been there, fear and terror don’t seem at all unreasoning or unjustified. These can be dark and lonely times.
In Isaiah’s prophecy, 41:10-13; God offers a clear statement to His people, “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.” Those words are fresh and timeless. God’s love is certain and unchanging! I can be joyful and at peace knowing that His love will sustain me as I go through the trials that come in my life. When I am weak, God is strong. He is there to strengthen and help me when troubles seem to be closing in on all sides. I will praise Him in all things. I will not fear.