Slide show


The Answer to Turmoil and Fear

“Let’s say there is a ship on the high sea, having a fierce struggle with the waves. The storm wind is blowing harder by the minute. The boat is small, tossed about like a toy; the sky is dark; the sailors’ strength is failing. Then one of them is gripped by . . . whom? what? . . . he cannot tell himself. But someone is there in the boat who wasn’t there before. . . . Suddenly he can no longer see or hear anything, can no longer row, a wave overwhelms him, and in final desperation he shrieks: Stranger in this boat, who are you? And the other answers, I am Fear. . . . All hope is lost, Fear is in the boat.”
On January 15, 1933, in a Berlin church, Dietrich Bonhoeffer delivered this haunting allegory in a sermon entitled “Overcoming Fear.”
Germany was in the midst of fearful and turbulent times, indeed. The devastation of defeat from World War I, just 14 years earlier, was fresh on the people’s minds and hearts. The Stock Market Crash of 1929 compounded further pressures on the struggling German economy, driving the number of unemployed to more than six million. The new Weimar Republic lacked political stability and leadership, and fears of communism and extremism loomed large. As these dark waves battered them from all sides, many Germans including German Christians feared what the future would hold.
“Fear is in the boat, in Germany, in our own lives and in the nave of this church naked fear of an hour from now, of tomorrow and the day after.”
In times of fear and despondency fear can grip the masses or can make a dictator who will capitalize on the fear of the people. This is true with the case of Germany a rising leader took interest in this dire situation, but he offered a quite different solution. Rather than help people overcome their fears, he sought to exploit them for power. With a commanding sense of authority and a persuasive tongue, he offered them a savior: himself.
Just 15 days after Bonhoeffer’s sermon, the country made this man, Adolf Hitler, their Chancellor. As Bonhoeffer warned, but would have never foreseen, fear drove Germany and millions of others into deeper pain, division, and despair.
The words of a popular Theologian echoes in the midst of the church community  who said Evil will prevail as long as goodman remain and does nothing. Fear will either make the good man to arise, speak and become the banner of hope and encourage in true transformation.
The Answer to Turmoil 
Fear pollutes our thinking, distorts our judgment, cripples our resilience to evil, dislodges our love, and casts a gloom over our hearts. When fear dominates, then distrust, hatred, and selfishness separate us from our Creator and our neighbor, replacing what unifies us: faith, trust, love.
What is the role of the man of cloth, the Apostle or Prophet in this discouraged moments and times of sufferings. Bonhoeffer states that it is to be an inspirational voice to preach the Gospel of peace and grace. Transform the mind of the masses to be transformed in form and substance. Bring real liberation that is of the mind. All battles are won and lost in the mind.
Fear takes away a person’s humanity. This is not what the creature made by God looks like.Millions of Germans allowed fear to erode their humanity, turning from trust in God to trust in a maniac, from love of neighbor to holocaust and war.
Fear has the same power today. We still face the everyday fears that characterize a broken world, in addition to the fears that accompany a tense election year. While the current social and political climate of the Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe may not be as extreme as that of Germany in the early 1930s, sensitive church leaders can’t help but notice the fear that pervades the current elections cycle: a cycle fraught with threats of terrorism, loss of religious freedoms and values, and the risk of becoming a God fearless generations. Congregations sense it, fear it, and may even fuel it.
Jesus Christ had a way to address Fear when ever he meets with it, remember when He was in the boat with his disciples. It was the Voice of faith and hope that drove it away. This is why we need the church to continue speaking the word even when the world is in darkness and seems to be ignorant and not interested, keep preaching the word.
All quotes come from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Overcoming Fear,” in The Collected Sermons of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, ed. and trans. by Isabel Best (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2012), 59–66.]