In our day and place I detect that the greatest desire of many folks is to escape from fear. The methods, programs, and philosophies employed to deal with fear go by a variety of names- national defense, law and order, religious salvation, traditional values, patriotism, economic prosperity, gun rights, etc., etc.
Right alongside the relief of fear in the list of human needs I would add peace. By that peace I mean more than just the absence of violent conflict between men and groups. I also include the idea of peace of mind, that settled mental state where we are not constantly anxious, anticipating the next reason to be fearful and certain that it is just around the corner.
In our normal understanding of the relationship between fear and peace, we assume that first we need to be free from fear and afterward peace may be possible. If I anything to fear, peace of mind is impossible. Fear drives me to prepare for conflict to protect myself.
Ironically the very preparation for conflict has the effect of often producing that conflict. War preparation, mobilizations for example, serve to threaten anyone who perceives themselves as a potential enemy. Their natural response is to prepare likewise.
This very tit for tat of seeking safety by preparing for war is the background to much of the history of human conflict. WWI is a prime example of how war readiness actual precipitated a global crisis, drawing many nations into a war which sprang from a rather minor local incident. After all was over, large standing armies, entangling mutual defense alliances, and precipitous mobilizations, all normal procedures to prevent or respond to war, turned out to be the catalyst for worldwide destruction and catastrophic loss of life.
I suspect hardly anyone would argue with the intimate connection between fear and peace of mind. The connection between peace as in the absence of armed conflict and our collective peace of mind or mental tranquility might be a bit more arguable, but there again, I suspect most would admit a significant relationship between the two.
The Apostle Paul suggested a novel approach to achieve peace and in the process deal with fear. He said that peace of mind was achievable only when we stop struggling against life circumstances and decide to be content in whatever state we find ourselves. That doesn’t mean passivity in the face of evil. It just means addressing evil differently.
Fear is overcome when we have the inner strength to deal with the fearful without becoming fearsome in response. Peace comes when we decide unilaterally to be peaceful in our response to events and circumstances.
Violence begets violence as Jesus noted. Peace begets peace. A mind at peace is not oblivious to dangers but is also not obsessed with those dangers.
Peace which demands completely safety and zero risk is obviously unattainable. Risk in inevitable; only our response to it is ours to master and control. Some responses are peaceful; others are fearful. Fearful responses stoke additional fears in a self perpetuating cycle which destroys all possibility of peace. Only a decision to commit to peace ever brings even momentary peace.
Commitment to peace precedes escape from fear; it is not the other way around.