Keeping the Faith in an Age of Fear

When I was growing up, I was afraid of three things: the monsters I had seen on TV (there was a blob called Caltiki), actual spiders, and nuclear war.  Oddly enough, the most serious threat, which was nuclear war, frightened me the least but that did not stop me from dreaming of ways for the United States and the Soviet Union to make a meaningful peace.  I guess that when I was eleven, I found the idea of a war destroying the whole world to be very troubling.

Looking back on my childhood now, it seems that the fears that haunted my childhood were not very serious after all.  That may be because those fears were relatively few, or it may be because they have largely been resolved.  Today, the thought of there being only one nation that poses a threat to America seems like a reason to relax.

Unfortunately, today our nation is gripped with many, many fears.  Black people are afraid of white people and white people are afraid of black people.  Democrats are afraid of Republicans and Republicans are afraid of Democrats. Libertarians don’t trust anyone, and everyone is afraid of terrorists.

In addition to being afraid of what other people may do to us, there are also larger than human fears.  Will we destroy the environment?  What about global warming and pandemics?  And if these things do not destroy us, will the riots wreck our cities, and will the national debt or automation crush our economy?

So how does one live in a day and an age where there are so many things for us to be reasonably concerned about, if not afraid of?

For me, the key is to remember the most basic truths that I believe about God and Jesus.  Yes, the world is apparently getting worse; and yes we are called to do our best to help it to change course, BUT… throughout the scriptures we are plainly told that we would face trials and tribulations in this life and that things would get worse before the end.

And so just as the risen Jesus appeared to two men on the road to Emmaus and said to them, “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:26), we must remember that Jesus told his followers that, “in this world we will have troubles” but that we should be of good cheer for he has “overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

And just as Jesus told his disciples, and by extension us, of the troubles that were to come, but then added, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28) we must remember that our hope cannot be cancelled by anything in the evening news.

So how do we keep the faith in an age of fear?  There is only one way I know of.  Let us remember that “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again”, and then let us live accordingly.

Pastor Barnes

Mount Oak Fellowship of the UMC