That Nameless, Unreasoning, Unjustified Terror

In an era of great distress, President Franklin Roosevelt offered our nation some wise words of comfort. His sentiments were never more needed than now.
By Jason Jackson | Christian Courier

What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of rejection; of not being loved? Are you afraid that change would bring about new failures? Would another personal defeat be unbearable?

If it’s the present you fear, or the future, you’re not alone. You have lots of company—every man and woman on earth.

Justifiable fear guards against recklessness. But that “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance”—that is something we ought to fear.

The American people elected Franklin D. Roosevelt to the nation’s highest office in a time known as the Great Depression. When President Roosevelt delivered his first inaugural address, his rhetoric became one of the most recognized speeches in American history. He opened his address by saying:

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.

Everyone fears the unknown, but those who act in spite of their fears muster the courage to “convert retreat into advance.”

Fear hurts the family. Fear paralyzes the church. Fear and happiness don’t mix. Fear and success are incompatible. When fear dominates one’s perspective, a person refuses to initiate the steps that will lead to better days and prosperity. Solomon encouraged:

Trust in Jehovah with all thy heart, And lean not upon thine own understanding: In all thy ways acknowledge him, And he will direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes; Fear Jehovah, and depart from evil: It will be health to thy navel, And marrow to thy bones. Honor Jehovah with thy substance, And with the first fruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, And thy vats shall overflow with new wine (Proverbs 3:5-10).

Some people avoid risks, fearing the unknown. They like the “safe place.” Even if the “safe place” is misery, they prefer it because it’s familiar.

Fearful people are selfish. Avoiding personal growth “risks,” they remain in their misery—it’s what’s “good” for them. So what, if there is a spouse and children who are dependent on them? What if there is a congregation who could use their involvement. They are entitled to their pity—other people should try to understand them!

Is happiness the prize possession of the “lucky”—those who haven’t suffered reversals? Or can anyone tap into the power to be happy and successful Christian husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, and involved Christians?

Again Solomon wrote: “Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh; for youth and the dawn of life are vanity” (Ecclesiastes 11:10).

Appealing to our practicality, Solomon reasons with us, affirming we can remove sorrow. We won’t be in the prime of our lives very long. Happiness only becomes more difficult.

So live a good life—today. See the good things in your life. See God’s gifts all around you. Your children won’t wait for you to get happy; they will continue to have birthdays as you pout, and in their twenties and thirties, they’ll be trying to figure it all out.

Get up in the morning. Have a glass of orange juice. Visit with your children before work and school. Start the day with a good memory and build on the opportunity that you have the gift of life—another day. Love your wife. Love your husband. Live for Jesus. Involve yourself in the Lord’s church. So what are you afraid of?