I know what a panic attack feels like. When adrenaline surges through my body I have to blink a few times just to see clearly. My extremities lose sensation, and in extreme cases, they nearly go limp. I can't catch my breath. The loss of oxygen makes my head feel like it's spinning. My world spirals out of control.
There was a long time in my life when I experienced many panic attacks. Driving on the interstate triggered them. How could something so simple trigger a panic attack?
I wasn't always this way. In fact, I remember a time in my life when I drove across multiple state lines, never afraid. Then, everything changed. Nine years ago, I experienced a terrifying car accident. While driving along a mountain road with limited visibility, my vehicle hydroplaned and plummeted down a steep embankment.
By God's gracious hand, he delivered me. I walked away nearly unharmed. Little did I know, God's mighty work that day was just the beginning of a long journey of deliverance for me.
Months after my car accident, a fear of driving crept into my life as my thoughts continually fixated on the events of my accident. The sensation of hydroplaning and my vehicle plummeting were unforgettable, terrifying memories.
Then, about two years later, I experienced my first panic attack while driving on the interstate. Determined to prevent another accident, I made the regrettable decision to avoid it altogether. Interstate driving inevitably became my greatest fear.
My story doesn't end there though, just as Christ's work didn't end on the cross. Romans 8:11 says, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
Christ's resurrection offers hope for deliverance from fear. It's the hope moving me forward. Believing in the hope of the resurrection is just the beginning though. A lot of intentional work is involved in the process.
Through the help of a Biblical counselor, I realized my fear was rooted in sin. I doubted God's good sovereignty. Rather than trusting God, I wanted control. Proverbs 28:13 says, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”
Confession and repentance became a continual process in my journey. To this day, my repentance is choosing to trust God's sovereignty by merging onto the interstate. I’m choosing to trust God despite any unforeseen catastrophe.
Abiding in Christ
Over time, I began to realize the trauma God allowed in my life was ultimately drawing me closer to him. Psalm 34:4 says, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Without the Lord, there is no hope for deliverance. Therefore, I desperately sought him—with a ravenous hunger.
Week after week, verse after verse, I read his promises until my eyes grew weary. I learned how to pray when I am anxious, (Philippians 4:6) to ask him for guidance, (James 1:5) and to arm myself for battle, (Ephesians 6:10-13). And then, he illuminated a promise in Isaiah 26:3: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
My discovery of God's promise fueled my hope. I began meditating on several attributes of God and how he displayed each of them in my life. Keeping my mind on Christ became my ammunition for overcoming fear. At first, it was mentally exhausting to drive because there was a continuous battle in my mind. Like Peter, my tendency was to fixate on my surroundings rather than Christ, (Matthew 14:30).
Now, it's not quite as exhausting because my mind is better trained. When I'm on the brink of a panic attack, I work to focus on Christ's character. The process includes specific prayers, such as, “Jesus you are good. Nothing happens outside of your good sovereignty. You are mighty, Lord. Nothing is too hard for you.”
Truly, Jesus is conquering my fear, and I'm progressing. My drives used to consist of driving on a nearly empty interstate at sunrise. Now, I'm able to drive during rush hour! Recently, I also drove across state lines for the first time in seven years!
Jesus is Greater
Nine years ago, God delivered me from a terrifying accident. Today, he continues to deliver me by taking my broken trust issues and making them whole. He's redeeming my story and developing a trust in me I've never known before.
When I began overcoming my fear three years ago, my goal was simple: drive interstate without panicking. Little did I know God planned abundantly more for me. I'm now triumphing over the impossible, but I'm also realizing there's something greater than overcoming my fear—knowing Jesus more fully.
Philippians 3:8a says, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Christ is more powerful than my fear and more desirable than overcoming my fear. I pray his name and remembrance will always be the desire of my soul, (Isaiah 26:8).
*Please seek counsel from a pastor or trained Biblical counselor if you are living under a stronghold of fear or anxiety.*
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