I had never had any major issues with anxiety until six years ago. One night just after going to bed I suddenly became very dizzy, my heart started beating extremely fast, I became short of breath. I felt like I was going to die. It was an awful and intense experience. And then after about 5 minutes it passed. I realized that, out of the blue, I had had my first anxiety attack. It was very scary and puzzling. Why did it happen? I didn’t think I was feeling anxious that day. Over the next year I would have a handful more of the attacks I just described; two of which came on an overseas flight to another country, which instantly gave me an intense fear of flying; something I had not experienced before and have had to battle through as I continue to fly. Although the anxiety attacks were not frequent or long-lived, what did develop for about a year was an ever-present and fiercely intense anxiety that threatened everything I did.
As a Result…
I began to feel unbearably anxious all the time, especially when I went anywhere I had to interact in depth with people. Even going out to eat with close friends I trusted made me feel so anxious that I would be near tears and would want to cancel the outing. If I was going somewhere with friends that required driving, I would drive myself so that I was “in control” and knew I could leave anytime I wanted to. When I went anywhere that required me to sit with a bunch of people, like at church, I always sat on the aisle. That way I could easily get up anytime and leave if I needed to. Having an “out” like this made me feel more like I was in control and that made me feel slightly less anxious. Despite the anxiety I still pushed through and kept going to church, kept getting together with people, kept going to work, even when I felt like I was barely making it.
A Crisis of Faith
Also as a result of this anxiety, I had a major crisis of faith. I questioned if God was real, if the Bible was even true and reliable, if God was good, etc. I felt like I was hanging on by a thread of faith. Sometimes I questioned if I was going crazy. I even considered leaving God. But I realized that peace comes directly from God and I didn’t want to ever live apart from Him and have even more intense anxiety. I was also comforted by good friends who had gone through similar experiences and had come out OK on the other side. They encouraged me to keep on going….it really was going to be alright, which was difficult to believe at the time.
How I Overcame It
I knew I had to deal with this anxiety so I started meeting with a Christian biblical counselor to work through issues that I needed to be set free from. I made a choice not to take any kind of anti-anxiety medication. This anxiety had not always been a part of my life, and I wanted it gone, not merely subdued. Even though it was extremely difficult, painful and harrowing, I wanted to get to the root of the problem so I could get rid of it for good! I think it takes a lot of courage to actually feel and deal with unpleasant emotions and experiences as you work through them. I’m not necessarily anti-medication; there is a time and place for it. But I do think medication should not take the place of dealing with the deeper issue, emotional or otherwise.
During this time I learned that the anxiety I felt was a result of feeling out of control in life. Most things in life we really don’t have a lot of control over, especially other people’s actions and responses. The only way to have full, real and lasting peace is to know and trust the loving and good God who actually is in control of all things. This is where true peace and freedom come from. From then on, anytime I felt anxiety come up, I would ask Jesus to come into the feeling and dissipate it. And I would make a decision to trust that He really was in control of everything. I have to tell you, that as I leaned on and trusted Jesus to take care of me, every single time I asked Him to take away the feelings of anxiety, He did! Most of the time it was immediate. A few times I really had to press into trusting Him and it took a little while because I was so worked up. But He always took the anxiety away. Always. Whether it be in the car, on planes, while meeting with people, while at work, while being way out of my comfort zone.
Walking Into Freedom
Over time, as I kept learning more and more to trust God with everything in my life, to fully lean on Him and to ask Him to come into these negative feelings and transform them, I began to come out of the constant “anxiety coma”. All of a sudden I would realize, I went to church and sat in the middle of the row and didn’t even think twice about it. Or, I did something with friends and I didn’t feel an ounce of anxiety. I haven’t had any anxiety attacks since then and I don’t have much anxiety now. When I do feel anxiety or fear or any other potentially crippling emotion, I still rely on God to help, and trust that He’s in control. I still ask Him to come into those negative emotions and dissipate them and to show me the root cause of them. He always does. He is faithful and is fully reliable. His reputation precedes Him.
+What has God set you free from? Be sure to tell other people about it! One of my favorite verses in the Bible,Revelation 12:11, talks about the power of our personal testimony of what God has done in our life! “And they overcame him (the devil) by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus) and by the word of their testimony…”
+What do you still need to be set free from? Ask God to help you and to show you your part in receiving freedom. Do you need counseling? Or to start reading the Bible to learn who God is and who He says you are? Or do you need to start realizing that you can’t control everything so you need to learn to fully trust God? Or….?
God desires to meet us in the midst of every large and small experience in each of our lives; in everything that scares us, troubles us, confuses us and breaks our heart. What are you struggling with today that God desires to meet you in the midst of and deliver you from? I encourage you to invite Him into it and ask Him to deal with it and minister to you in the midst of it. It can be frightening and painful to look into all of the dark and wounded places of our hearts. But I tell you from experience that God’s freedom on the other side is a million times worth each step of the journey!
God, You are truly so, so, so good, faithful, loving and kind! I know that from so many of my personal experiences. Thank You for caring about me with such tenderness and for caring about every aspect of my life. And thank You for setting me free! Even after experiencing intense struggles through things like anxiety I can genuinely say that I am thankful for the experience because it makes me know more and more how good You are, and it gives me more compassion for people who are experiencing their own struggles. I love you! Amen.
*You can read more specifically about my personal experience overcoming anxiety while flying, right here.