Posts tagged Anxiety
Nourished by Christ in the Wilderness

About four years ago, I experienced my first full-blown panic attack. Those experiences accumulated, and I grew to have increasing difficulty with leaving my home. I remember willfully dumping myself into the passenger seat to be driven to my parents’ nearby home—only to feel an urgent pull two minutes later for the car to be turned around. I remember my husband and I taking our trotting dog for a walk, yards from our home, and I was unable to carry a simple conversation because of the mental pain. By God’s grace, I was directed to a health cause for this anxiety. 

Yet, in my months without answers, I experienced the temptation to dwell exclusively upon the question, Will my life now always be like this? Yet, it was because I had peace with God through Christ that I did not despair—and I could see beyond it.

Hunger and Thirst in the Wilderness

David writes of his vision on God in Psalm 63. It is a Psalm from the wilderness—David describes his setting as a waterless, vapid, weary place. 

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;

    my soul thirsts for you;

my flesh faints for you,

    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (v. 1)

And Scripture speaks of different categories of wildernesses.

We can see John the Baptist in the wilderness before the beginning of his ministry of proclaiming the coming of Christ (Luke 1:80). He was in a place of knowing that God had issued a calling upon his life, while, for years, he was not at a time of fulfilling that calling—he was waiting. 

A wilderness might also be a place of temptation where evil moves—consider Jesus being brought into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1). Christ knows what it is to feel the pressures of being sinned against or to face relentless lies. 

The Wilderness of the Soul

Scripture also speaks of another kind of wilderness; John the Baptist proclaimed it (Matthew 3:3), and this is when the Christian faith starts to get especially personal. Scripture says that without Christ, there is a wilderness within us. As our state without Christ is described further by John the Baptist, we see that it is the kind of wilderness we cannot pull ourselves from, and that time alone will not rectify. 

Now, David, in his wilderness, said, I thirst, I hunger. And we might similarly say, My soul aches.Yet, David adds two sweet words—for you. In every kind of wilderness, he hungered for the Lord. 

The first verse of the Psalm speaks to why he can say these things. First, he says, God; he confesses that God is God, whether or not he and those around him acknowledge it. God.

He goes on to say, You are my God. Now, that is an entirely separate statement—he wanted God to be God of his life and have that exclusive role. And because God was invited to be God of his life, he had formed this habit of praising God in his most barren times. 

In fact, he says that doing so was his rich, hearty, meaty, satisfying meal.

The Everyday, Eternal Bread of Life

Jesus says he is the Bread of Life, and that in him, we will never hunger. As Jesus teaches this truth, the theme of wilderness continues. When the Israelites were in the wilderness, they received manna from heaven—yet, Jesus says, They died(John 6:49). Jesus is saying that the kind of food he comes to give us is in a completely different category.

He comes to us in our direst and deadliest of wildernesses—the one of our souls. He says his food fills us entirely with life even there. So, surely, he can fill us in every other kind of wilderness. 

Strikingly here, Jesus speaks about eternal, spiritual, significant realities—life, the living Father, the resurrection, being alive forever—but in terms of the everyday, basic human reality of eating a piece of bread. 

Jesus expresses what he is to us as the Son of God, telling us, Eat my flesh, drink my blood.This is what he invites us to do! How much more applicable to our everyday lives could this be? 

Three Truths About Christ’s Meal to Nourish You

Here are three truths about Christ’s meal to nourish your soul today: 

1. This is not a meal of ourselves.

This is a hopeful reality. If you feel, like I did with anxiety, that you are in a depleted, weary, empty, starving space, don’t despair. This is an honest human place to be. You weren’t made to be or produce your own food. Before God, we are like children—we receive the meal; we take and eat what is provided. 

2. This is a resurrection meal.

Perhaps you have difficulty connecting with these truths because you cannot see them; they seem abstract. But Jesus says his food and drink are real because they will allow us to live on the last day. And on the last day, we will not need to wait longingly any more; there will be no more lies, temptations, or evil pressures or pain; and there will be no more sorrow of the sin of our souls. Our hearts will be completely clean and cleared—and we will be freed of the wilderness. The food Christ gives is real, for it is the food we need—and the only food we can possibly eat—to allow us to live on that last day, and live forever. 

3. Christ is the food. 

He did not send someone or something else; he came himself to be flesh—to sacrifice his body and pour out his blood to give us peace with God. This is God getting very personal with us. 

With this kind of food in mind, read Psalm 63:3-7:

Because your steadfast love is better than life,

    my lips will praise you.

So I will bless you as long as I live;

    in your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,

    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,

when I remember you upon my bed,

    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;

for you have been my help,

    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.

This is a Christian meal for us today: the daily bread of the surpassing truths of Christ—which is just as personal a help to us as Christ intended—and the rich, satisfying meal of harvesting those truths in our souls to praise him in the wilderness.

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Five Perspectives for Enduring Panic Attacks

Panic attacks—they are crippling. Your mind spins, your pulse is out-of-control fast, the world fades, and you feel like you are sinking into it. If this is happening to you—I am so very sorry.

I understand that you have likely spent significant time praying and yearning for a remedy. I understand that you cannot envision your life like this—tomorrow or years ahead. And I understand that when you hear the words “worry,” “fear,” or “anxious” from others applied to your brand of panic and anxiety, you often cannot relate to what is said next. I understand that you would stop the panic attacks if you could, that they cannot be resisted like sin can be resisted. And I understand that you have trouble feeling normal.

Yet, this is your normalcy even now. Your goal today is as it has ever been—to be faithful to your God by being a keeper of his Word, and to endure with him, in his presence, until the day he sovereignly brings you relief, whether now or in eternity. Until then, endure well by remembering his Word to you.

Here are five perspectives to help endure panic attacks well.

1. A day with panic is not a bad day.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. (Psalm 73:26, 28)

If you cannot do everything today that you did yesterday, lament this before the Lord. And then move forward. Even more, move forward as the Psalms do—to praise.

[Tweet “Recover from panic attacks in God’s presence. Worship your way through recovery.”]

There is much you can do today. You can praise and honor the Lord God. He is with you. So this day is very precious. If you had a panic attack today and all you can comprehend is recovering, then recover to his glory. Recover in his presence. Ask how you can worship your way through recovery, acknowledging in your heart and to those around you his good works. Or, if you can comprehend doing more, though still not as much as you would like to do, then lament that too. Lament what you cannot do this day, and move forward to praise in what you can do.

There is much joy to find—even if you wish the day could feel different. No day is a throw-away day when you can still praise God in what you think, love, speak, and do. This day may not be your ideal. But this is a beautiful day. This is a good day. Enjoy it as a gift. And every day is new and independent of the last; start anew each day.

2. The resolution is not up to you.

When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, you knew my path. (Psalm 142:3a)

You do not know the plans God has for your life. Believing that a good day is only one in which you are cured of panic attacks and anxiety is just as unwise and untrue as determining for yourself that panic attacks and anxiety will be with you for the rest of your days. You simply do not know. You do not know what change or progress God might bring.

But when the foundation of your life is God’s sovereignty, you do not need to know. He has a plan. As you continue to be faithful to his Word and ways, he will enable you to fulfill his plan for your life regardless of whether panic attacks and anxiety come along or not.

He is gracious, loving, caring, generous, infinitely thoughtful, and gentle with you. He knows how you feel, truly. Christian, he knows your heart, he sees every longing to honor him still—and that you wonder how this will be possible. Trust his sovereignty; don’t make plans for three or thirty years from now that you do not have enough information to make. Don’t spend your thoughts on what you do not know. Instead, ask God for ways to honor him—ask that you might fulfill every good purpose he has for you. He knows your path—even on the days when you cannot think too deeply, and even concerning the aspects of the future outside of your present comprehension.

3. God protects you.

Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31:24)

Panic attacks and anxiety impact your life in legitimate, practical ways. I understand the barriers before you to overcome—that the grocery store, or the place where you experienced your first panic attack, or that flight to a vacation you want to enjoy, feel out of reach. I understand that taking a step too soon can be unwise, bringing an experience of panic that will then require even more from you as you move forward. Most of all, I understand that what is simple for another person is, for you, completely courageous.

So pray for wisdom to know simply the next stepof faithfulness. Don’t concern yourself so much with an end goal, and don’t forget that your anxiety about that next step is often worse than the experience itself. You do not know how you’ll feel then, but you can trust now. Take just that next step and don’t categorically disqualify yourself from any experience in the future. Be patient with your progress.

God is already protecting you. So be wise and prayerful without believing the lie that you are sovereign over your own protection. God leads your progress and your life. On this earth, God will act to protect you as he sees fit; no matter what happens, he will protect you straight into eternity. And he knows your heart and your mind already—and perfectly. So be courageous, prayerful, wise, and patient, even as you have already been.

4. Use this opportunity to examine your life.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24)

When panic attacks and anxiety come, all of life’s concerns and discontents are magnified. Your internal processing is intensified. What comes to mind? This is an opportunity. Use this time to identify what is presently most concerning to your heart in order to grow in holiness and loving obedience before the Lord. The cares of this world are passing away—to which ones do we cling? What sins are we cherishing that we can confess and turn from? What weights can we lay off and entrust to him?

While there is opportunity for self-examination, let it also reach its natural end. This is not to say that there is an end to sin in this life. But this period of life and the reflection it allows can be directed in prayer to the God who leads you on according to his everlastingly good ways. During times of panic and anxiety, we tend to fixate ourselves on finding a cure. The temptation here will be to use opportunities for increased righteousness as a way to be cured, or even to bargain for a cure, instead of as a way to purely honor God.

Your reason to grow in holiness is not for the purpose of ridding yourself of suffering, but simply for the purpose of growing closer to the heart of Christ in what you think, love, say, and do. Once you have confessed your sin and repented, trust in Christ’s forgiveness and move forward from it with him.

5. Peace can dwell even in the midst of panic.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)

You will find ways to grow and be stretched in loving obedience to God in the particulars of your panic attacks and anxiety. Through self-examination and receiving God’s forgiveness, and through perspective and holiness in this trial, you will find a renewed experience of peace. Your experience of peace is possible because of the genuine and unalterable peace that you have been given with your God.

Be at peace with how you choose to live amidst panic attacks and anxiety. Feel also your firm, already-accomplished peace with God in Christ. You have this; it cannot leave.

Now, you can have this rest—salvific peace with God and experiential peace in your heart and mind—while still going on to experience a panic attack outside of your control. Peace can dwell within that experience, saying, God, my peace is you, and I live in peace before you, though still this panic comes over me. Please do not be discouraged in your faith, as if a panic attack disqualifies you from knowing peace. Endure now and take heart—press on and know confidently that you have the crown of life waiting for you (James 1:12).

God’s presence with you enables you to endure panic attacks well. He is solid, like an unbreakable rod in the center of who you are that connects you to him. Cling to him. Remind yourself, continually if needed, the perspectives he teaches. They will always be there for you; his Word never fails and you have access to him always. Look to him, “to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2).

As you do, whether or not your panic attacks and anxiety are removed, so much will be added to you.

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