Friday, January 3, 2014

Panic Attacks

“Be not afraid of sudden fear…” Prov. 3:25

As far as I know, I’ve never experienced a full-blown panic attack, at least, as it is clinically described: a sense of impending doom or disaster; rapid heart rate; trembling; hyperventilation; chest pain; trouble swallowing, etc. These are only a few of the possible symptoms. They usually begin suddenly, anywhere, anytime, even when you’re sound asleep or driving a car. They peak in about ten minutes and leave you exhausted when they finally abate. But to quote an article from the Mayo Clinic website, “One of the worst things about panic attacks is the intense fear that you'll have another one. You may fear having a panic attack so much that you avoid situations where they may occur. You may even feel unable to leave your home (agoraphobia) because no place feels safe.” In other words, as Proverbs 3:25 says, you fear the fear.

I said I’ve never experienced a panic attack, but I should qualify that by saying, a physical panic attack. The truth is, I’m well acquainted with the spiritual kind. Like the physical disorder, there need not be a legitimate cause for panic, only a perceived one. And in both cases, once you’ve experienced it, your greatest fear may be the fear of having another one. So much so, as the article says, you are loath to ever put yourself in a situation where it might happen again. When this happens, faith has been dealt a debilitating blow.

These thoughts came to mind when I read something by R. Arthur Matthews in his excellent little book, Born For Battle. “The devil is a panic artist and plays heavily on our self-consciousness in emergency situations.” They’re not sure what causes physical panic attacks, but the spiritual ones with which you and I may be struck, have Satan’s fingerprints all over them. He provokes (1Chron. 21:11), tempts (Mk. 1:3), binds (Lk. 13:16), takes advantage (2Cor. 2:11), wears disguises (2Cor. 11:14); in short, Revelation 12:9 says, he deceives the whole world. No wonder he scares us!

The remedies used for physical panic attacks are psychotherapy and medications, basically, to change your thought patterns. God’s remedy for spiritual panic attacks is to know and believe we have a personal Enemy who wants us to think he’s invincible, and we have no recourse but to surrender to his attacks (both lies); and knowing this, to stand fast in our position as “more than conquerors” (Rom. 8:37).

So take heed from the wise man and “be not afraid of sudden fear.” Satan is real and he’s scary; but we don’t have to believe his lies. We can call his bluff.

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