Growing up, I had panic attacks at least once a month, if not more. They never made any sense to me. One minute I would be smiling and joyful as a seven-year-old boy can be, and the next my body felt like it was going to give up on me.
Over the years, I learned to manage, but never eliminate these attacks. Some seasons were better than others. But, it felt as though no matter how much I prayed, worshipped, sought counsel, or wished, it seemed these attacks would be a part of my life forever. See, I knew that the Bible said, “Do not fear”, 366 times. (Yes, that’s one for every day, including one for leap year.) I knew that if you cast your burdens on Jesus you will not be moved (Psalm 55:22). However, my reality was that nothing seemed to bring me healing.
I reached my lowest point a month after I got engaged to my wife. A time that should have been full of celebration and joy was consumed by doctor appointments with no answers and counseling sessions with no progress. One night, my wife heard an advertisement for a Sunday service at a local church with a pastor who had written a book on his journey with anxiety. We cleared our schedules, so we could attend.
I remember thinking it was the last thing in the world I wanted to do. I know that may sound silly, but when you have struggled with something for as long as I had with anxiety, you have heard almost everything there is to know and every trick in the book to try to mitigate what you are experiencing. Thankfully, I went.
The first portion of the night was familiar to me. I’d heard most of what he spoke on and I quickly found myself thinking being there was a waste of time. However, at the end of the night the pastor prayed and said this simple, yet profound phrase. “Some of you will be healed tonight and some of you won’t. God’s sovereignty is at work in either scenario.”
Now, let me just say, I was not raised in a very charismatic environment, so what I experienced that night was something I had never felt before. As the pastor began his prayer, I felt as though a wind was pushing me back and it took a fair amount of effort to stay standing. As soon as he said, “Amen,” I instantly sat down in my chair and began crying. And, I’m not talking about your super spiritual happy cry. I was full-on ugly crying – snot and all. I knew something changed that night as God’s grace overwhelmed me. I haven’t had a single panic attack since.
I wish I could tell you that was the end of the story, but it wasn’t. God healed me from my panic attacks that night, but anxiety is still a part of my daily battle. Scripture tells us that we can take heart because Jesus has overcome the world. What we often fail to remember is that the promise of hope is preceded by a promise that we will have trouble in this world.
And everything I’ve taught you is so that the peace that is in Me will be in you and will give you great confidence as you rest in Me. For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous, for I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33)
I’ve come to realize that living in complete bliss and harmony is meant for Heaven. While on earth, we must learn to worship with pain. That doesn’t mean we need to walk around hanging our heads or constantly mourn our existence. Rather, it simply means we need to be aware of our condition. This will be the only time in all of eternity that we will in fact worship God through hardship.
The epidemic of mental illness is something we, as Christians, need to be more proactive about. It breaks my heart to think of anyone out there who’s been told any version of “You need to pray harder to be healed” or “You must not trust God because you are so consumed by this vice.”
Number one, you are not crazy. More importantly, you are not alone. Our Heavenly Father knows every hair on your head, which means he also knows every thought worry or concern inside of it. He has given us the tools necessary to fight battles as they come. There is a promise of hope and comfort, if you call upon the name of Jesus.
Our weaknesses are where God wants to shine and work the most. Being willing to be vulnerable with Him is when we find our mightiest moments. For those like me who have been matched up against anxiety, remember that everything God brings into our lives has a plan and a purpose for our benefit and blessing. So, whether you are the one in need or the one on the other side carrying another’s burden, God had your specific design in mind for His glory.
If you need encouragement or prayer, I want to invite you to reach out to Thrive Worship so that we can join in your journey. We also hope that the songs on this album (A Thousand More) build up faith and hope in your life. God truly has your greatest days ahead. We pray that His goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life.
What do you need prayer for today? Share in the comments box below.
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