EKD Press Releases

Bedford-Strohm: Fear is a poor counsellor

New Year message from the EKD Council Chair

December 29, 2016

A new year lies before us. What will it bring? No one can say. Forecasts may turn out wrong - we saw evidence of that in 2016. Astrological predictions rarely prove true. The future, even the very near future, is open in many respects, and full of unknowns. Sometimes this lack of knowledge is hard to bear, above all for those who tend more to worry than to be open-minded about the future.

In the last few months there has been a lot of concern about the present and fear about the future. The terrorist attack in Berlin shattered us all. Some people are now more afraid of falling victim to such an attack themselves. But people are often prey to fears of social decline, and of change as such. In turn, it is frightening to witness the rough, often hateful tone that is becoming so common, particularly on the internet, and the increasing lack of readiness to engage with other opinions. This event cannot simply be swept under the carpet.  Fear is a poor counsellor, however. It narrows our view and also our heart. It saps our courage and makes us fold our hands in resignation.

How can we handle this situation? Whence can we draw inner strength to counter fear and uncertainty? How can we come to a basic feeling of confidence, which is the precondition for wise reflection and heartened action?

It all depends on the sources nurturing the heart. Christian faith is a powerful source - of that I am convinced and I constantly experience it myself. The basis for this faith is the biblical texts that have now, again, come home to many people in the new 2017 edition of the Luther Bible. These texts are a source of love and hope. Love originates in the unconditional and boundless love of God for all people. Through it, God became human. That is the message of Christmas, which is celebrated in grand style once a year but applies at all times.

The other side of this unconditional love of God is hope. If God loves us human beings so much that God is also - and precisely - to be found in times of care, pain, concern and sorrow, then the situation is not hopeless. Often serious, perhaps, but not hopeless. For anyone who trusts the loving God the Bible becomes a great story of hope. The God who led the people of Israel out of bondage in Egypt can also lead us out of fear and embarrassment. Whoever trusts the God of love can say with the Psalmist: "The Lord is my shepherd. And although I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff - they comfort me."

Anyone who puts their trust and hope in God is not making things easier by putting on rose-coloured glasses. The future still remains uncertain. But when we trust in God, who is unconditionally on our side, what lies before us becomes less frightening, and we are no longer frustrated by a lack of knowledge. And we can live with that, and make the best of what lies in our own hands and in our own power.

Hanover, 29 December 2016

EKD Press Office
Kerstin Kipp



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