I occasionally experience panic attacks. Basically this is when the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response kicks in without any external stimulus. Symptoms of a panic attack include dizziness, a sense of ‘depersonalization’ and intense fear of dying. This was a bit problematic when I recently had a panic attack while walking home beside State Highway 88 as 40 tonne trucks rumbled past less than a metre from my left elbow.
As turbulence from each truck whipped at my face and chains from logging trucks swung clanging past me, I felt myself teetering while the thundering menaces swept toward me. If I staggered into the path of one of those behemoths I’d be killed, so I walked with my right hand running along the fence ready to restrain my errant feet and tremulous knees. Was I suicidal? Was I going mad? Was Satan attempting to throw me to my death using my own legs to do so? Would I make it home?
Fear overwhelmed me. Regardless of why I felt like this, the thousand or so steps it would take me to get home were becoming an increasingly intimidating task. My thoughts were not coherent enough to remember God’s promises or even pray properly. All I could manage was to recite over and over again: “He will never leave you or forsake you” and, “nothing can snatch you out of His hand.” Were these even in the Bible, or was I just making it up? At least I did know that neither death nor life can separate me from the love of Christ (Romans 8:38-39). Whether I had remembered chapter and verse or had it word perfect was irrelevant for that long 30 minutes, I had to keep walking, the trucks would keep coming and I needed to know that I was not about to stumble in front of one of them. I was clinging to God, placing my hope of getting home even in Him, not in my tenuous ability to remember Bible verses (though I have resolved to put more effort into that discipline!).
In the face of an uncertain future it was trusting Christ that got me through – I needed Him to steady my body and strengthen my heart to get me through that experience. Now as I look back a week later it almost seems as though my description above is rather melodramatic but honestly, that really is how it felt at the time and though I suspected even then that it was a panic attack, it was certainly not logic and a correct diagnosis that got me home, it was trusting in Christ. If I had not been able to know with absolute certainty that Jesus was holding me firmly I do wonder if I may have lost the plot completely?
“It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
(Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV)
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
(John 10:27-30 ESV)
For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
(Isaiah 30:15 ESV)