Helmut Thielicke (1908–1986): Love is the opposite of fear and anxiety


Helmut Thielicke (1908–1986) was a German preacher during World War II, given the heavy task of shepherding people through their darkest and most traumatic years. Ten of his wartime sermons were collected, translated into English by Geoffrey Bromiley, and published under the title The Silence of God. In one sermon Thielicke addresses the anxiety of the day with these words of reassuring comfort:

“The surprising thing in the biblical message is that it finds in love the opposite of fear and anxiety. There is no terror – one might equally well say anxiety – in love, we are told in 1 John [4:15–19]. The surprising thing is that anxiety is not opposed by fortitude, courage or heroism, as one might expect. These are simply anxiety suppressed, not conquered. The positive force which defeats anxiety is love. What this means can be understood only when we have tackled anxiety in what we have tried to see as its final root. That is to say, anxiety is a broken bond and love is the bond restored. Once we know in Christ that the world has a fatherly basis and that we are loved, we lose our anxiety. This is not because the powers referred to have gone. On Dürer’s picture of the Horseman, Death and the Devil [see below] they lurk on the way. But they have lost their strength. To use a simple comparison – and simplicity is needed in ultimate questions – I need have no fear even in the darkest forest when I hold my father’s hand and I am sure of it.”

Helmut Thielicke (1908–1986), The Silence of God, p. 8–9


– Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), Knight, Death and the Devil (Ritter, Tod und Teufel)