Monday, March 5, 2012

On anxiety, panic attacks and their place in the Christian's life...

It's been three years since my very first panic attack. The one that landed me in the back of an ambulance and in the ER. The one that sent my life into a downward spiral that ended with me as a prisoner of agoraphobia, trapped in deep, suffocating fear, confined within the walls of my home.

And if you would have told me way back then that I would still be dealing with anxiety and panic disorder three years from then, I would have hung my head and cried. Because once I actually sought out help, started medication, and began to slowly live again, deep down I wanted a quick fix. I wanted to go to bed one night and wake up the next all fixed, all whole, all better.

But God hasn't chosen to work that way with me in this situation. This trial with irrational fear, anxiety, and panic disorder has not been a quick fix for me. It's been a slow, at times agonizing and very trying process. One in which I have frequently found myself becoming frustrated with myself.

But, you know, I try to remember that nothing really worth attaining comes easily or quickly.

And lately, as I have been struggling a little more with my anxiety (probably because I've had such a packed schedule and have been pushing myself too much), I'm trying to remember that this struggle is a big, worthwhile learning process. Yes, I said worthwhile.

And those who say that Christians shouldn't struggle with fear, anxiety, and panic attacks, well I beg to differ. Because, honestly, I used to be one of those judgmental Christians who thought that a Christian that was strong in their faith should be able to handle fear and worry without medication or other outside help.

But once I saw what true anxiety could do ~ the hundreds of heart palpitations, the crushing feeling, the suffocating sensation, the overwhelming dizziness, the isolation, the loss of hope and love, the dark cloud that just refused to move ~ I realized that this is real. And it's something that I'm finding more and more Christians are experiencing.

So at times, like right now, when that old darkness is threatening to hang its stubborn, heavy cloud over my head, I know that this is when there is a lesson to learn. There's a decision to be made. My Heavenly Father loves me and wants to take care of me. He's not up there in Heaven, shaking His fist at me and my struggles, wondering when I'm going to get it right and "get over this, already." Instead, He's right here beside me, inside of me, and He's waiting for me to fall into His open arms.

He is my strength, especially in times when my strength is depleted. He is my calm when my mind is swirling. He is my peace when I, down deep in the gut, feel twisted and stretched thin.

And He has graciously used this personal struggle of mine to grow me, to grow my faith. He has taught me so many good and worthwhile lessons during these last three years of struggle. I have come to know my Father so much more personally than I ever had before. It has been during this time of fear and anxiety, that I have learned to really live for Him. This is what He does for His dearly loved children. He uses hard times, things that Satan means for evil, to grow us and make us stronger, firmer in Him.

And He still has more to teach me. He's kept me here in this struggle for a purpose. I have to believe that and trust in that. This struggle has purpose, good purpose, as do all things for those who love the Lord. The Word says that. So, do I believe it or not? Do I believe His Word or do I reject it and live in defeat?

And so in times like these, I must cling to and claim the truth.

Truths like...

Being confident in this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil. 1:6)

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord. "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

"For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee." Isaiah 41:13 (I love this one; have it on an index card in my vehicle as a reminder.)

"He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flies by day; Nor for the pestilence that walks in darkness; nor for the destruction that wastes at noonday." (Psalm 91: 1-2 and 4-6)

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You. (Isaiah 26:13)

God has said, "Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid." (Hebrews 13:5-6)

So I as I sit here at the kitchen counter typing all of this out for all to read, I am faced with a decision.

Am I going to believe it or deny it?

Am I going to believe that God can be trusted and then CHOOSE to trust Him or am I going to shrink back in fear wondering if maybe, just maybe, God can be trusted most of the time, but not all of the time.

Am I going to choose to claim the truth, speak it out loud, shove it in the face of my enemy and live or am I going to choose to resign to the lies of Satan?

Am I going to choose to believe that my Father has good for me even in the midst of my struggles and has permitted the struggles for a good reason or am I going to listen to the lies of Satan that say that I am too weak, too unworthy to be used by God or even loved by Him?

Can I just say that I want to live a victorious life in my Father?

And the only way to do that is to believe His Word and trust that He is good ALL the time, that His love for me is so perfect and so huge that it can't even be measured (Ephesian 3:18), and that He does not condemn me for my struggles with anxiety and fear (Romans 8:1). He does not even condemn me when I struggle with trusting Him and His Word.

Here's one I've been repeating over and over again to myself: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)

Because, to me, this means that God loves me with a perfect love. And because His love is perfect, I can completely trust Him with my life and with the lives of my loved ones. And because I can completely trust Him, I do not have to fear. And I do not have to fear that God will get frustrated with me and turn His back on me because I do struggle.

And the last part of that verse? "The one who fears is not made perfect in love?" Well, that's me when I'm believing the enemy instead of my Father. He doesn't love me any less. His love for me is unconditional (mental note: remember that, Amber. Unconditional.)

But how I live is impacted by whether or not I believe in His perfect love for me. When I'm not trusting Him, when I'm not choosing to believe in His goodness and love for me, I am not living the life He has intended for me to live. But, regardless, He never stops loving me. He remains faithful to me, even when I do not remain faithful to Him. (2 Timothy 2:13)

Father, thank You for Your great, great, immeasurable love You have for me. Thank You for giving my struggles a good purpose. And I ask You to use this struggle of mine for Your glory. May I be emptied of myself so that I can be filled with You and so that all those I come in contact with will know that You are real.

For Father, You have changed my life. You have made life worth living. You are my strong rock, my place of shelter, my source of calm and peace. Forgive me for when I take my eyes off of You and look to the world to provide those things that only You can provide.

Father, use me for Your Kingdom. May all I do be worthwhile, producing fruit that does not spoil or waste away. But fruit that feeds and nourishes others and leads others to Your throne.

Father, thank You for loving me with an everlasting, unconditional love. As Your Word says in Ephesian 3:18, please give me the power to be able to understand the depth and width of Your great love for me. God, I want to let Your perfect love cast out all of my fear.

I cast all of my anxieties and fears at Your feet, and I choose to crawl up into Your holy lap and take all from You that You desire to give to me ~ peace, calm, love, grace, trust.

Lord, help me to believe and trust You fully. Help me to remain faithful to trust in You always.

I love You, Lord. I am nothing without You.


Unknown said...

I just love this post Amber, and I am so glad you posted this.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing so honestly. I have been thinking of my own emotional struggles lately, and how they draw me close to Christ as well. You have a beautiful heart.

Heather said...

I kid you not, Amber, I lay awake just last night with heart palpitations and with knots in my stomach.

This post hit close to home for me, and (although this is pretty much always the case with your posts) was very uplifting. I suffer from anxiety as well, and sometimes I will walk around for days on end with my stomach in knots and overwhelmed with the emotion of dread. Even though I usually can't pinpoint what exactly I'm fearful of...

It's miserable, and can be debilitating at times. I always admire your honest and humble posts. I needed to hear this today, and those verses are all my favorites when I'm fighting anxiety!

Mrs. W said...
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