On January 6, 1941, during his State of the Union address, Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed that there were four fundamental freedoms that everyone, everywhere in the world should enjoy: Freedom of speech, Freedom of worship, Freedom from want and Freedom from fear.
This speech inspired Norman Rockwell to paint a series of four oil on canvas paintings in 1943. Those four paintings are probably his best known works and most widely reproduced. In the United States, these four paintings were often hung in post offices and schools and in other public buildings.
Each painting was accompanied by an essay written by leading writers and historians of the day. Rockwell’s painting “Freedom from Fear” depicts a couple tucking a blanket around two children already asleep on the bed. The painting was accompanied by an essay by Stephen Vincent Benet published on March 13, 1943. The essay concludes with “Here is a house, a woman, a man, their children. They are not free from life and the obligations of life. But they can be free from fear. All over the world, they can be free from fear. And we know they are not yet free.”
Today, Fear is everywhere. Not much has changed since FDR’s speech in 1941.
I am not afraid of many things, yet my life has long been characterized by fear. I am afraid of failure. I am afraid of looking like a fool. Fear of what people think of me has made me do some things that I really did not want to do, or not do some things that I really should have done.
All people everywhere should know what it is like to be free from the fear of tyranny and invasion, but even more than that: God created all man-kind in His image and He wants all men to live unafraid, not just of tyranny and oppressive rule by men or people groups or nations, but He wants all people every where to live free from fear of every kind. Fear and terror are not God’s tools. God’s word says that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18) and further, God is Love (1 John 4:16).
Seneca the Younger, a Roman Philosopher, said this: “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” We fear that we will fail, so we imagine that we will fail, and then it becomes a certainty that we do not try. We fear that we will be rejected and so we refuse to become vulnerable to another so that we cannot be rejected. We fear the unknown to the point that we refuse to venture out and try new things.
There are two things that will become a huge help in battling fear. First, know that God can set you free and wants to set you free. Second, know that you were created to be free. It is in your DNA. You do not need to fear anything.
I feel safest when I’m with someone I trust. I imagine you do as well. The more I trust a person, the safer I feel. In safety, there is no fear. I feel safest around trust-worthy people who love me unconditionally.
It may seem like I’m oversimplifying it, and perhaps I am, but I would like to suggest that God is the most trust-worthy being in all of existence, and as a result, he is also the safest. He loves you more than any other loves you. No conditions. No restrictions. He does not require anything of you. He simply loves you. You need not fear anything when you are in His presence. Freedom, true freedom, will be found in His presence. If you want to be free, make your way into His presence. Make your home at His feet. Listen to His voice.
You are designed to live in God’s presence, and you are designed to carry His presence. Theologian N.T. Wright once wrote: “Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about.” If you discover for yourself that God is trust-worthy and that you are designed to uniquely carry God’s presence in order to “colonize earth with the life of heaven,” then I think you’ll find that you don’t fear much in this world.