It has been years since I’ve experienced a full-blown panic attack. Having lived most of my life in fear and panic, this new season in my life is wonderful and peaceful. What used to consume my thoughts minute-upon-minute now occasionally crosses my mind every once and awhile. I no longer live my life in the world of “what ifs”.
So, what did I do? How did I overcome a life-long battle of fear? What steps did I take?
All of my years of fear and panic came to pivotal point one night at 3 in the morning. I had drifted off to sleep like any other night, but I awoke with my heart racing and my mind spinning. These were the classical symptoms of a nighttime panic attack, or night terror. Typically, the medication I was taken would have kept my asleep, but I had tapered off all medication with the help of my doctor a couple of months earlier. I didn’t have anything to numb the pain.
As I lie there, bracing myself for the worst, a scripture came to mind: “For you are a slave to whatever controls you” (2 Peter 2:19b). In the past, as the panic would hit with all its force, I would jump out of bed and get out of the room as fast as I can. That was my typical response. But as the waves of panic began cresting in my mind that night, I made a choice–I will not obey the fear. I will not respond to the fearful thoughts consuming my mind.
Was it an easy choice? No. It was the hardest choice I’ve ever had to make. My body began quivering and shaking with fear. I wondered at one point if I would wake my wife with the terrible trembling I was experiencing. I lay there experiencing the full grunt of the fear. Everything in me wanted to run. Everything in me wanted to fight. But I chose that night not give in to the fear.
“Don’t you realize that whatever you choose to obey becomes your master? You can choose sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God and receive his approval” (Romans 6:16).
Most attacks for me lasted less than a minute. The episode that night went on for an hour–my body trembling, my mind racing. It seemed like it was never going to end, but it did. I was able to go back to sleep and wake to a new morning filled with hope and courage.
That night, something happened in me. I came to the realization that I did not have to obey the fear, no matter how terrifying and scary it may seem. I was not going to be a slave to fear, for you are a slave to whatever controls you. Did the fear continue to plague my mind? Yes, occasionally. Did I give in to fear? No, I would not. I could not, because if I gave in to it, then it would become my master again, and I did not want fear to be my master.
Slowly over time, the attacks of fear have lessened. Occasionally, I experience “zaps of adrenaline”, as I call them, but I don’t respond to them. I don’t listen to the threats of fear anymore.
How can you do this? How can you choose not to obey fear? It starts by choosing something bigger than fear to obey. That night, as I lay there trembling and shaking with fear, I prayed, “Father, I choose tonight not to obey to the fear. Rather, I choose to obey you. Give me your strength. Fill me with your mercy and grace. It is only through your strength that I can overcome this fear. Apart from Jesus, I can do nothing.”
I really believe with all of my heart that many people reading this message can find freedom and peace from fear by choosing to obey God rather than fear. I don’t say this because I think it’s a good idea. I say this because I have experienced freedom firsthand. It works. It‚s real. With God, all things are possible.
“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15b).
Prayer: Father, today, I choose to obey you and not the fear. I will not obey the commands of fear anymore. I can do this in Christ, who gives me strength.