There's been plenty of news coverage regarding the latest slide of the Dow Jones industrial average, along with declines in other indexes around the world. Some of this seems to be the result of concerns about deteriorating financial conditions in Eastern Europe, where bad investments along with growing unemployment are major issues. But behind the reasons given for the negative numbers is a four-letter word that is the main cause of the decline: FEAR.
The fear takes many different forms, depending on which country or culture is affected – from the individual retiree who is fearful that these declines will render him or her penniless, to small and large businesses struggling to stay afloat when conditions seem so unpromising, to entrepreneurs who are working on innovations that the world desperately needs.
Fear tends to paralyze, confuse, weaken, and depress humans and their activities. But there is an antidote to fear, and the world needs it now, more than ever. Valuable as the stimulus package and other government efforts may be, without the accompanying antidote, they can take us only part of the way.
This antidote to fear operates in many different ways. For example, it gives someone unnatural strength so that if a loved one is in danger, the individual is able to lift heavy objects or move more quickly than he or she ever could under normal circumstances. Soldiers who save buddies, search and rescue workers who accomplish what look like miracles when they save people, all have supplies of this antidote. You may already have guessed it: The antidote is love.
Before you turn away, consider that kind of love – the courage and strength the rescuers need, the devotion they pour into their training, the quick thinking that goes into their actions, their willingness to give up their own selfish concerns and risk everything to save a life. This is love with the "chops" to turn things around. It is the love Mary Baker Eddy was referring to when she wrote: "Love is not something put upon a shelf, to be taken down on rare occasions with sugar-tongs and laid on a rose-leaf. I make strong demands on love, call for active witnesses to prove it, and noble sacrifices and grand achievements as its results.... Love cannot be a mere abstraction, or goodness without activity and power" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," p. 250).
Each of us may be called upon to make sacrifices – may already be facing the need to do so – as national and world economies strive to recover their strength. If we make these efforts halfheartedly, selfishly, or with bitterness and backbiting, they will be more difficult and less fruitful. But to whatever extent they can be made with love, "grand achievements" will become possible. Why? Because it is a provable fact that love drives out fear. And when fear is driven out, the tide begins to turn.
The writer of John's first letter in the Bible noted the power of love when he wrote: "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love" (I John 4:18).
How can one achieve the perfect love that will remove one's own fears as well as the atmosphere of fear that prevents progress? This question is answered earlier in that letter: "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (4:16). To turn to divine Love for guidance, to open our hearts to do our own work as Love's representatives, releases the antidote into our thoughts and being. This changes the way we perceive the situation. It provides strength and conviction in our actions; it reveals solutions where none seemed possible before.
Each individual today can take this first step of turning away from fear to love, to recognizing that God, divine Love, loves His creation and specifically loves each of us – from Wall Street to no street. Divine Love gives only good, is unlimited and a present power. It can – and will – save us.