Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Don't Panic

By Julie Gernand
Matthew 11:28 - "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."
Out of nowhere, your heart starts racing. Your palms are sweating and you feel like the room is spinning. You feel totally out-of-control.

For many of us, this is what it is like to experience a panic attack. 

For some, it happens when we must give a speech or a presentation in front of a group. For others it comes when we feel unprepared for an exam. For me, it often comes when sitting in a quiet group of people, such as in church or while attending a wedding. For those of us who struggle with panic attacks, our frightening, yet harmless, symptoms can sometimes come seemingly out of nowhere.

I have struggled with anxiety and panic since high school. I remember sitting with my oboe during morning band rehearsal, and out-of-the blue, my body would react as if an armed terrorist had just entered the room. This began to happen almost daily, in my other classes as well. I began to fear the panic attacks themselves, and this worry alone would often cause an attack. For many people, panic attacks can be frightening and downright debilitating.

[Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, nor am I a specialist in panic disorders. However, I have experienced anxiety attacks, and I believe that there are many ways in which our Lord cares and helps those with anxious thoughts.]

Have you experienced any of the panicky feelings I have described above?

Perhaps you haven’t felt the physical symptoms, but you are a chronic worry-wart and you allow excessive anxious thoughts to pervade your daily thinking.

Rest assured, loves - Jesus is our true strength.

Here are a few ways in which I try to battle feelings of worry and panic:

ONE: Stop. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath.

Deep-breathing doesn’t often always do the trick, but taking long, slow breaths through the nose and out of the mouth is proven to have a calming effect on the body. I try this when I feel a slow building of anxious feelings coming on, and it often staves away other symptoms.

TWO: Focus your thoughts on something TRUE and comforting.

Panicky feelings are a lie. A big fat LIE. There is no rational reason for a body to respond the way it does during a panic attack. Therefore, what must we do? Send that lie flying by reminding ourselves of something TRUE. What is more true and comforting than the love of our Savior? It can be difficult to focus on something specific when one’s head is racing – yet repeating a mantra over in your head such as “Jesus is with me” or “Jesus loves me” can help to send stressful thoughts into oblivion.

THREE: Pray. 

During times of great stress, the most important and helpful thing I believe we can do is to talk to the one who knows us better than anyone else. Send up even a short prayer of “Lord, help me though this” during times of panic. This will help to center your thoughts on the Lord, the ultimate Healer.
You may be thinking: “Why should I ask Jesus for help? He never experienced these feelings! He had it made!”

Really? Read this:

Matthew 26:36-46  Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Luke 22:39-46  Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 

That is what I would call a full-fledged panic attack, my friends - one that we cannot ever comprehend. In the hours leading up to Jesus’ death, Scripture tells is us that Jesus became so overwhelmed and anxious, beginning to pray so fervently to the Father, that he began to sweat drops of blood.

Friends, the Lord knows your feelings of panic, for he experienced the ultimate in anxiety before he was put to death.

The Lord knows your struggles, friends. There is nothing you have or will endure that he cannot resonate with, for during his time on Earth, Jesus endured more trials than we can imagine. He knows what it is like to live amongst our broken, shattered world full of worry and pain.

Because of this, Jesus is our strength. He fought our hardest battle for us – the one against sin and death – that WE may live forever with Him! His love knows no bounds.

Rest in that comforting truth today.

Lord, We don’t know why panic attacks happen. We don’t know why we often worry ourselves into a tizzy, when ultimately we have nothing to fear. Jesus, help us to remember during times of earthly stress that someday soon, none of it will matter. The things of this earth will fall away, and we will live forever with you in paradise. Thank you, thank you, Jesus for being our one true Healer, Comforter, and Savior. 


[Post by Julie Gernand]

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