Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Week Twenty-Nine - Panic Attack

     Several women, both old and young, have approached me over these last few months about ways to deal with anxiety.  It caught me off guard as I didn’t know some of them struggled, but it seems to be a serious problem for many.
    When I get anxious, I have learned to give myself a good talking to.  A few years ago, I noticed that anxiety worked on my digestion and was causing wrinkles, so I began to pray and listen to my body.  I changed my diet.  I practiced controlled breathing and taught myself to relax my taut muscles.  I memorized uplifting and assuring Scriptures and surrounded myself with Christian music.  I took a good look at the company I was keeping and the things I was watching on television removing and setting boundaries to control the things bringing fear and chaos into my life. 
      If that sounds too easy for those who struggle with a perpetual feeling of fear and nervousness.  I’m sorry.  Please don’t stop reading yet!
    I was given a book called Fully Alive by Susie Larson and found time to read it this past month.  It’s a study book with places to journal and does research into a variety of situations we all face like fear, grief, discouragement, and illness.  But there is also a chapter on anxiousness and worry that helped me look at three other ways to deal with panic attacks.  Let’s take a quick look, and, if you can get a copy of her book, you will be able to draw even more if this is an area of concern in your life.
     The author opens up about her experience with worry and anxiety in a very personal way.  For her, she struggled to keep her heart and thoughts away from fear and fixed on the Lord as she faced repeated illness.  She said, “I felt stuck between a rock and a hard place and had no idea what to do.”
(p 98)
     In a deep moment of prayer, the Lord gave her three things to hold on to amid these severe moments of anxiety.  I cannot do justice to all she has written but let me try to break it down for you in hopes that God uses this short devotion to breathe hope into your anxious heart.
     “One day He (the Lord) laid out a strategy that would carry me through the rest of the battle: 
                       You REST while I work.  You FEAST while I fight.  You WAIT to take flight. 
     Rest, feast, and wait?  My storm compelled me to strive, starve, and strain at the oars.  Clearly, there’s a way for us to flourish in our storms.  When we allow the Prince of Peace to guard and guide us, the enemy can’t touch us” (p 98-99).
    What does she mean by resting while the Lord works?  When anxiety hits, we have an instinctive reaction to look for something to do, striving to make things more bearable.  For some, it is cleaning a closet.  For others, it is eating or shopping.  Some find themselves angry and lash out from fear and pressure.  Some hide. Some cry.  Some freeze.
     Alternatively, the author says, it is the perfect time to stop striving and focus on the Lord.  He wants us to rest in Him; to cease from our fretting and draw aside into His love.  Never forget—He is not a God who frets and worries. (I love that thought.) Spending time getting to know Him as the God who knows and takes care of our troubles calms our anxious hearts as He works on our behalf. 
     Like that “shoulder toss” idea I have written about before.  We cast our cares upon Him.  We literally throw them over our shoulder and the Lord catches them.  We can then go and take a nap, exercise, or have a pleasant walk with a friend while assured of God’s ability to do whatever needs to be done.  The peace of God can rule in our hearts and we can find the rest we need while we wait on the Lord to solve the problem and remove the fear.
     When she spoke of feasting while the Lord fights, she was referring to the passage in Psalm 23 where we read of the Lord preparing a table for us in front of our enemies.  When enemies taunt us, we know God is going to graciously and generously meet our needs. 
     This might show itself in words of comfort grasping our hearts from Scripture or a worship song played just at the right time.  It might be an unexpected message from a friend with uplifting words.  It is that right place, right time word or action that affirms the Lord’s love and attention toward you. 
     I think of it like that “take that” moment when you turn toward the enemy and feel bolstered by God’s love and knowledge of your place in Christ.  That is feasting!  Instead of starving or allowing the enemy to beat us down, we have a healthy assurance that causes anxiety to melt away. 
     I cannot begin to tell you of the times God moved with one mighty stroke to remove my fear and anxiety in times like this.  It always leaves me feeling so very loved and safe.  I find myself feasting in His love for me: singing at the top of my lungs and praising with a fully thankful heart, with no thought of the enemy or my fear.
    Waiting to take flight means not giving up so easily.  Instead, we look with hope and expectation for the Lord’s relief in our situation.  I use Psalm 27:13, 14 when I am in these times.  I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”  
     While I wait, I draw aside with Him.  I keep my thoughts focused on the promises of His word and do things that keep me calm.
     I might have a cup of tea or take a prayer walk.  I might go to my special area and cry and pray.  I might set myself down and have a good talk through the truths of God’s word and write down what He says about me and guides me into a better understanding.
     But whatever my calming looks like, it always results in bringing me back to the promise of the goodness of the Lord.  He will answer.  He will take care of me.  I can trust Him.  There is no need to throw in the towel or go do something rash or stupid. 
     Susie Larson says, “When you’re tempted to strive, it’s time to rest.  When you’re taunted by the enemy’s threats, it’s time to feast. When you feel defeated and you’ve lost your motivation to battle, it’s time to wait on the Lord, expectantly believing that He will renew our strength.  His word is true.  It’s impossible for Him to fail you.” (p 109)

It’s time to take that panic attack to the throne!

Hast thou not known?
hast thou not heard that the everlasting God,
the Lord,
the Creator of the ends of the earth,
fainteth not,
neither is weary?
there is no searching of his understanding.
He giveth power to the faith;
and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary
and the young men shall utterly fall:
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength:
they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary; and
they shall walk, and not faint.
Isaiah 40:28-31

Larson, Susie, Learning to Flourish—Mind, Body and Spirit, Fully Alive, Bethany House, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2018

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