Does Fear Affect You?
“THERE are great tragedies in the world today.” Thus wrote René Dubos, scientist and philosopher, in his recent book Celebrations of Life. He continued: “Paradoxically, however, much of contemporary gloom originates not from the difficulties we are actually experiencing, but from disasters that have not yet happened, and may never happen.” In other words, man fears the future because he lives in expectation of what is uncertain and uncontrollable.
According to Dubos, what are some of the disasters that loom as future possibilities? “We are profoundly disturbed by the possibility of nuclear warfare and of really serious accidents in nuclear reactors . . . We are collectively worried because we anticipate that world conditions will deteriorate if population and technology continue growing at the present rate. The earth will soon be overpopulated and its resources depleted; there will be catastrophic food shortages.” Although an optimist himself, René Dubos recognizes that we live in an “atmosphere of gloom that now prevails over much of the world.”
Alvin Toffler, sociologist and writer, spent five years interviewing a wide range of people on the effects of change and the future in their lives. “Nobel prizewinners, hippies, psychiatrists, physicians, businessmen, professional futurists, philosophers, and educators gave voice to their concern over change, their anxieties about adaptation, their fears about the future.” (Italics ours.) His investigation proved to him that anxiety and fear of the future have become common.
This feeling of foreboding that has been mankind’s common experience during this century was aptly predicted by Jesus Christ nearly 2,000 years ago. He had prophesied that the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed and his disciples were curious to know “when will these things actually be, and what will be the sign when these things are destined to occur?”—Luke 21:7.
In the first portion of his answer Jesus related events that many of that generation lived to see. But he took advantage of their question to include events on a global scale that would be witnessed, not by that last generation of Jewish worshipers at the temple, but, more importantly, by those who would live through the conclusion of this present world system. He warned: “Also, there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth anguish of nations, not knowing the way out because of the roaring of the sea and its agitation, while men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”—Luke 21:25, 26, 32.*
Obviously, men in past generations have also lived in fear—fear of local wars, plagues, catastrophes and social change. But did the generation of 1914 observe something different? Certainly, because the whole “inhabited earth,” all the nations, has been affected since that turning point. (Luke 21:25, 26) So much has been compressed into the past 69 years that older people who have experienced it are disconcerted and fearful. And now, due to the nuclear threat, people of all ages, even children, are anxious about their life expectancy. It has been rightly said that the predominant sentiment, or chief emotion, of the 20th century is FEAR.
But maybe you think we are exaggerating. Is fear of present and future events sufficiently widespread for us to believe that it fulfills Jesus’ prophecy? Is it really part of the proof that we are in the time of the end? Is this the time period when “men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth”?
The Spanish Catholic Cantera-Iglesias Bible offers a footnote on the parallel account in chapter 24 of Matthew. It states: “The temple’s beauty gives Jesus the opportunity to predict its ruin; the disciples ask when will that ruin be (Mt 24 verse 3), and with that question introduce the theme of the final catastrophe of the world, its date and the preceding signs.”