About seven years ago, I struggled deeply with depression and anxiety. It got so bad that I, literally, had a panic attack whenever anyone from our family had to leave the house. And considering Landon went to school everyday and Mike went to work everyday and Emi went to the babysitter's everyday - you get my drift. I was absolutely certain that one of us was going to die. I hardly left our house. I could barely complete menial tasks. I was afraid of everything. And I hid it from everybody. I still had a job I had to get done, kids to raise, a marriage to uphold - but inside, every day was a struggle to keep from lying in bed all day, drowning in fear.
Somehow, I had it in my mind for awhile that once you became a Christian, you had this "hedge of protection" around you. A free "get out of pain" card, a guarantee everything would always be alright.
The Christmas before, I was at my sister's house and was looking at all of the pictures on her fridge. A Christmas card caught my eye that literally became the first domino in a chain reaction that caused me to question everything I had ever thought about how protected I actually was. This card was from a missionary family my sister's church supported that had two happy parents and two happy kids on it. In a picture off to the side, resting on a cloud, was a picture of another happy child. I thought to myself, "That's strange," and asked Amy why the other boy was on a cloud. "He died on the mission field. He contracted some bacterial infection and was gone in 24 hours." I kid you not, the entire room got very small, I started to breathe very shallowly and I excused myself the bathroom. My family was on the mission field. I have children on the mission field. Missionaries aren't covered under "the hedge of protection?" I thought. Anxiety was born.
When I really got a hold of what was going on, I sought wise counsel. I began seeing a mentor once a week for about eight months. It helped me to gain perspective, walk through my anxiety and also learn about the real heart of God. I was eventually able to leave my house, and let my loved ones leave the house, without thinking about the worst case scenario. They would leave. They would come back. Bye, bye anxiety.
Or so I thought.
A week ago, Mike nonchalantly tells me that he and Landon were going to Santo Domingo with the soccer teams to play some games there. They would be taking a bus and would be gone most of the day. Suddenly, visions of all the movies I have ever seen where foreigners take a rickety bus, over a winding road that has ravines on either side of it, went all crazy in my head. I had a panic attack on the spot and for the three days leading up to the trip. To top it off, the night before the trip, Landon starts having a panic attack about leaving, as well. He was begging with everything in him to stay home and not go. I was sure this was a "sign from God" that something bad was going to happen. When Landon went to his room, I begged Mike not to go.
The morning of the trip, I was a mess but was keeping strong so Landon didn't freak out. Mike said he cried in the car the whole way to school. I decided to get my devos out. I knew I couldn't go back to sleep so I might as well try and keep my mind busy on something else.
I've gotten to the point in my spiritual walk to know when things like this come up - it is a spiritual attack. A way for The Enemy to paralyze me, to steal away my joy. A lot of people would like to believe that it's just part of being human, it's normal, it's expected. If you are one of these people, let me just stop you right there: There is a REAL Enemy. He knows you. He knows your weakness. He knows everything about you. And he uses this information for your destruction. Panic attacks aren't normal. It's not part of being human. It's not expected.
So before I read anything in my Bible or devotional, I decided to just write in my journal about how I was feeling. And what I wrote completely took me by surprise:
"Right now I'm thinking, 'Is this God trying to warn us?' or 'Is Satan trying to rob Landon of a great experience?' I know the determining factor in all of this is fear. I feel afraid, anxious, nervous, overwhelmed...but here's the thing: none of these emotions are things God "puts on" His beloved. Those are weapons of The Enemy. Satan is constantly trying to steal the joy from God's people. Paralyzing people with fear is his most powerful weapon. So today I will CHOOSE joy, not fear."
It changed everything for me.
Whenever I had an anxious feeling that day, I would recite to myself as a reminder,
"So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." -Isaiah 41:10
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." -Philippians 4:6
Almost everyone knows those verses. Heck, I skip over them whenever people put them in their blogs because I know them by heart. But this time was different -- I didn't just know them by heart, I knew them in my heart. Those words helped me decipher that Satan was speaking to me, not God. The loudest voice was fear-ridden, anxiety-stricken and overwhelming.
It was the still, quiet voice echoed in Scripture that helped me focus on my God, not my perceived problem.