Anxiety has tormented me since I was a child. Though I was never fully aware of what my thoughts and feelings meant until my college years, I always knew something was “wrong.” Rarely were my panic attacks linked to trauma or “reasonable” fears; no, my life was going well. This made it seem all the more confusing as to why I was barely functioning at a healthy level. At my lowest points, I could barely speak or move — I describe it as catatonic. The world around me was moving, but I was not. I was physically present, but mentally and emotionally, I was checked out. I could have a conversation with you for an hour, but couldn’t recall the last sentence you spoke.
This anxiety I speak of isn’t the familiar anxiety most have — speaking in front of an audience or the butterflies you feel before getting on a plane. This anxiety I speak of is the kind that renders people ineffective. For me, I had to leave jobs because I wasn’t functioning. I missed weeks of school during college as a result. I couldn’t even get in the car to drive to the grocery store. I naturally lost weight because I couldn’t eat. Though I was never suicidal, the thought of not waking up felt like a welcome relief.
Anxiety’s lies make you believe that living a fruitful life will never be a possibility. It makes you a slave to fear. It chains you to darkness. Panic attacks are a juicy opportunity for the enemy to twist a Christian into thinking he or she is spiritually dead, not believing enough, not trusting God enough, not “giving it to the Lord” enough. I’ve experienced fellow believers tell me that something was wrong with me for seeking psychological help or for taking medication. I’ve gotten lost in Google, in worldly advice, in listening to everyone else’s opinion but God’s. It wasn’t until I sought the Lord through his Word and applied the truths of the Gospel that I saw my condition in a freeing, hopeful light.
Lord of every cell
Jesus is the Lord of the earth and all creation, which means that he formed my body from the dust (Genesis 2:7); he knitted me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13); he knew me even before the creation of the earth (Jeremiah 1:4-5); he knows the number of hairs on my head (Matthew 10:30). Can you fathom this mighty power? The creator of the universe has designed me as I am — and even my flaws and brokenness are under his authority and care. Because Jesus is all-knowing, I can be assured that nothing is hidden from his sight (Hebrews 4:13), including my irrational and rational thoughts, and my pain and weakness. I can rest in entrusting my mind and body to Jesus — in his sovereign time, he has the power to deliver me.
A world of disease, discord, and death
A crucial turning point for me was understanding the power of sin in the world as a whole. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sin entered the world, so did disease, discord, decay, and death to our bodies (Genesis 3:1-24). This includes our minds. Our minds control and guide all within our bodies, so of course the enemy would target them first.
My personal sin through this includes worry and the unbelief that God can actually deliver me from panic attacks. There’s a vicious cycle of having anxiety about having anxiety; I worry about the impending future panic attacks. Another area of sin I have recognized is my pull toward perfectionism and wanting to appear that I have it all together. I have seen how much I fear the judgement of others, which is an offense to God (Proverbs 29:25). When I think of all this sin and brokenness without the truth of the Gospel, it only builds up more walls and pulls me down with greater chains. But there is hope and deliverance for me and for anyone who suffers from anxiety and panic attacks.
Glory ahead through Christ
Because Jesus Christ is the one true Messiah, this means that every sin of mine was cast upon him on the cross. He bore the weight of every pain, suffering, and brokenness within me at Calvary. His resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven means that I will too share in that victory someday — oh, what a balm this is to my aching soul! I eagerly await the glory ahead for me as a believer in Christ! There will be a day where disease, discord, decay, and death will be no more. Panic attacks and anxiety will someday be no more thanks to Jesus’ victory over death.
My heart has been soothed when I recognize that Jesus knows what I’m going through. Certainly, there is no record of Jesus having panic attacks. However, he knows what it is like to be overcome emotionally and spiritually; and he knows what it is like to live inside a human body on earth. In Gethsemane, Jesus said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38). Luke records Jesus’ anguish prior to his arrest: “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (22:44).
Jesus knows what it is like to feel abandoned, even by the Father (Matthew 27:46). As he approached his impending death, he asked of the Father: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus, fully God, fully man, desired a less painful way to fulfill his mission if it were possible. But he still sought the Father’s will above his own — a model for all of us.
I am comforted knowing our Savior interacted daily with people who were suffering from disease and decay, and he had compassion on each of them. He even chose to deliver many of them from their seemingly impossible to heal infirmities. I have a Savior who knows humanity, a Savior who is merciful, a Savior who is a healer!
Freedom through faith
As I reflect upon Christ’s life and character, I know I am called to respond by persevering in faith (James 1:2-5; Hebrews 10:36). I understand that I may never be freed from my panic attacks this side of heaven, but in faith, I press on in my suffering (Philippians 3:12-14). Just as Jesus moved toward the cross, knowing the suffering he’d endure, I must do the same with my suffering. My suffering is a link to Jesus Christ, and I will gladly bear this for his sake. I have to continually seek him through his Word, ask for guidance through the Spirit, and pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). In faith, I will choose to believe confidently that Jesus has the power to free me from these chains in his perfect timing. As I wait, I will keep my eyes fixed upon him and the glory ahead for me.