Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary, in response to a question about the latest Wikileaks dump of national secrets said, "We are the United States of America. We are not afraid of a man with a laptop who threw down $35.00 for a website." My first reaction is that Mr. Gibbs does not really understand fear. Perhaps he is correct in the collective sense that these leaks will not bring down the United States government. But what about the families who have loved ones in diplomatic service and intelligence services around the world? Do they not now fear for the safety of loved ones?
Fear is a paralyzing emotion when it grips us and holds on so completely. Some people never realize their potential because they are afraid to take that risk that might propel them to the success they envision. Investors today are reluctant to spend their cash because of uncertainty about the future of the economy and economic policy in the US. I know, 'uncertainty' does not sound as threatening as 'fear', but are they not one and the same? Whenever any external force causes you to pause, hesitate, become paralyzed as it were, there is an element of fear there. Ironically, this fear is the opposite of what the nation has sought in the past two years. We looked for hope and change. We got half of that package. Now is the time to look for hope.
Hope is difficult to see when there is no money to buy food. Hope is difficult to conjure up when 40 percent of the month is left after 100 percent of the money is gone. Hope is a distant idea when the landlord says your family has to go on Wednesday when you both know you will have the rent money by Friday. Most of us do not face such deprivation, but we are afraid nevertheless. Will my job and benefits still be there next year? How will I educate my children? How can we make it on one salary? Will there be war on the Korean peninsula - again? How will I pay for my health care? Will my doctor take Medicare next year? Will there be a job for me after I graduate? Will increased spending result in a period of hyper-inflation that will outpace my income? There are so many circumstances seemingly out of our control. Often we are not bold to stand up and be counted on the issues of the day because of the polarized political climate we have had in this country for over a decade. We are consumed by fear and resignation: Fear that actions we take to protest the way things are will result in adverse reactions from our friends and those whose opinions we value; reprisals from our employers, professors, government officials, or even the IRS. Resignation because of a widely held view that one person's voice no longer matters. We fatalistically acquiese to policies and ideas we know will harm us and others because we feel powerless to do anything about it.
We are in a season of hope. Did you notice? No, not hope that we will get one gift over another at Christmas, but hope that there is a power in our world that conquers fear and adversity. The people of God had endured a difficult history. In the first century they were occupied by powerful and brutal Rome. There was little to hope for, since this occupying force seemed to be entrenched indefinitely. In the midst of economic hardship and military oppression, hope came into the world in the birth of Jesus - God with us. That seemingly insignificant event, told to the poor shepherds first, would transform the world. Nothing would be the same. Yes, there are still economic hardships, and there is still military oppression and wars, but there is hope. In John 14, Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives give I to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." The idea of "fear not" and "do not be afraid" appears 365 times in in one translation of scripture. That's no coincidence. God wants us to know every day that even if we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we should fear no evil for God is with us. (Psalm 23).
Did anything I just say change your circumstances? Probably not. But the idea that we do not have to face any adversity alone should offer a new perspective. It's not us against the world. John Wesley, in his dying words, said, "Best of all, God is with us." God is with you and will give you strength and direction to get through whatever is causing you fear and anxiety today. He told us that he has "overcome the world." There are no exceptions. The God who conquered even death can meet your needs in spite of the uncertainty of the world. The angel told the shepherds, "Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy..." As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, know that hope is born in your life when you allow the power of his Spirit to help you through it all. We may not be afraid of a man with a laptop, but we are afraind of much the world hurls our way. God will never leave us or forsake us. Bring your fears to God and trust God through it all, and you will find hope in the midst of the darkness of this world.