It was during the 1932 presidential campaign that Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." In the midst of the Great Depression, as millions faced poverty, unemployment, displacement from their homes, and so on, it was a rather brash thing to say. Yet he got elected, and in time, the economy did improve. Setting aside the fact that many historians believe what really pulled us out of the Depression was World War II, the reality was people did go back to work, and a sense of purpose returned to the nation.
I suppose it could be argued that Roosevelt was able utter such a bromide because he was among the financially secure of his day. He wasn't unemployed. He wasn't impoverished. He hadn't lost his home. But still, he was speaking a real truth that is important for us to hear on this particular day here in Florida, across the nation and around the world. For there are some real threats out there: the increasing concern about the sabre rattling with North Korea and the possibility of nuclear war; the uncertainty faced by so many children and young people who may lose the protections they have received under DACA; the wild fires out west, the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the concerns about Hurricane Irma. It is all very frightening.
But that said, what next? If we allow fear to overtake us, if we become paralyzed by our anxieties and concerns, then we are sunk. Fear itself has done us in. But if we acknowledge our fears, recognize that they are real, turn them over to God and ask for a greater ability to identify what we can do to help address them, then we are on our way to dealing with the matters at hand.
Eleven years before Roosevelt was campaigning for President, a poem by Karle Wilson Baker was published in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. It's a short little bit of poetry called "Courage". It's final two lines are a powerful reminder for all of us in these anxious times as well:
Courage is Fear
That has said its prayers.
Might you be courageous in the days ahead.