Here, right in the middle of this fearful world is a place that is meant for all time, for all people, which has a peculiar task that the world doesn’t understand. It keeps calling over and over but always anew, in the same tone, the same thing: Fear is overcome; don’t be afraid (John 16:33).
“In the world you are frightened. But be comforted; I have conquered the world!” Christ is in the boat!
And this place, where this kind of talk is heard – and should be heard – is the pulpit of the church. From this pulpit the living Christ himself wants to speak, so that wherever he reaches somebody, that person will feel the fear sinking away, will feel Christ overcoming his or her fear…
Let the most depressed and despairing people speak, those who ask: “Isn’t our time up?” “Aren’t the years of catastrophe, of utter decline and breakdown, the chaos of our lives in both great and small things, which no one can ignore, the sign that God has let us go?” “God doesn’t want us anymore.” “There’s no more mercy coming our way from God.” “God is against us, and we have to accept it.” “It won’t do to keep clinging if we aren’t wanted.”
This is the cry out of the very depths of despair. There is only one thing that helps, and it is what the church does with any of us who thinks and feels this way. It takes the cross and places it before our eyes and asks: Did God abandon him? And since God did not abandon Jesus, we will not be abandoned by God, either.
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
“Overcoming Fear,” Sermon, Berlin. January 15, 1933.