Note: see here for progress of turning my story into book form, with extended thoughts on many of the topics discussed here.
Three months ago, I was broadsided by crippling anxiety and panic attacks following years of sporadic sleeplessness, anxious nights, health tests, and ER visits. From the outside my life appeared quite comfortable, a proud result of no shortage of hard work. Had a wonderful marriage, and most aspects of the American dream except a white picket fence. The Founding Fathers would have been proud of my pursuit of happiness. I tried to deal with my periodic health concerns and life stresses as insignificant speed bumps only temporarily derailing my relentless drive for “success,” comfort, and accomplishments. This worked for a little while, but soon became unsustainable as the anxiety and symptoms started to mount. Never would I have thought that in my entire lifetime I would deal with legitimate, diagnosable anxiety. That’s what other people had to deal with.
Boy was I wrong.
Tuesday, April 14, 3:30 A.M.
Another sleepless, anxious night. Another six hours of screaming frustration, watching the hours tick by until another workday would start. God, when would the cycle end?
Getting out of bed 4 hours later, my heart is pounding and my back is killing me. Uh oh, this is new. At least I’m seeing the doctor again today. Maybe he can help figure out what’s going on. I take three steps to the bathroom and am overwhelmed with a sense of dread. The tingling on the side of my face, which I’ve felt for months, spreads all over my scalp. My blood pressure spikes (160 over 105, what in the world?!). My hands start shaking. My heart is pounding, palpitating. I’m dizzy, nauseated, and have to prop myself up against the wall. My wind whirls, going immediately to the worst-case scenarios: “Am I having a heart attack? A stroke? Am I dying?” I stumble outside so that if (when?) I pass out at least someone will see me laying out on the grass. I call my parents for help–thinking Ambulance ASAP–and can barely talk on the phone.
This morning started a spiraling anxiety-ridden week that was absolutely the hardest week of my first-world life. Just existing took effort. I cycled from blood pressure medications to sleeping pills, absorbing anxiety attacks and physical symptoms all day and night. I took Ambien and laid awake, staring at the ceiling with heart pounding and panicking that I still couldn’t fall asleep. I sat in the hospital parking lot, waiting for a heart attack or another anxiety attack. I could not be alone. My blood pressure spiked up and down, making me restless one moment and dizzy the next. I slept maybe four hours total all week and lost 10 pounds. Getting in a car was panic-inducing. Mowing the lawn was an impossible task. Just the thought of eating solid food made me nauseated. New pains surfaced every day in my chest. And on and on and on.
Broken without a solution
So, yeah. In this carefully built life of mine I came face to face with a terrifying problem for which I had no answer. Did I mention that I’ve been a Christian for twenty-five years? (If you don’t relate to this, please don’t take this as a cue to check out. Or if you have had sour past experiences with Christians or religious Christianity, stay with me). I was very familiar with Bible verses such as:
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – the Apostle Paul as inspired by the Holy Spirit, circa 62 A.D. (Philippians 4:6-7) (bold emphasis here and thereafter mine)
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith…” – the Apostle Peter as inspired by the Holy Spirit, circa 60 A.D. (1 Peter 5:6-9a)
I had read those verses scores of times in my life. I believed the Bible. Ostensibly in a 2 Timothy 3:16 way. I knew that there’s a lot of people who don’t believe it, or just consider it a book of antiquated teaching with some good wisdom here and there. I knew that Jesus was a real Person who lived 2,000 years ago, and that He made claims that leave no fence-sitting (John 3:16-17). Either what He said and did was truth and then it’s a Life-Changing, World-Shaking Truth which shatters sin and death and demands my response. Or he was a delusional prophet who made absurd claims about dying and coming back to life and many of his real-life disciples and apostles suffered horrendous persecution and deaths for a Jesus that they knew was a fake and a joke.
I knew that God loves everyone, and that He can deliver people. And that I should always read more Bible and pray more. I was secretly proud of my devotion to intellectual spirituality–arguing both for and against Christian Liberty at different points of my life, and spending countless hours arguing other church topics or browsing reddit to discover what problems other rational people like myself had with Christianity (with the purpose of learning how to better answer questions). Did I mention the 25 years of doctrine-laden, knowledge-based Biblical education from homeschooling, private Christian school, church, Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, youth group, mission trips, retreats, and one year of Bible college? I’ve experienced and attended Catholic, non-denominational, conservative Baptist, really conservative Baptist, and Assemblies of God churches.
All that Bible knowledge from years of Christian exposure and there I lay, broken, on the couch.
And so the most difficult week of my American middle-class first-world life began. Each hour was a struggle, popping blood pressure pills, sleeping pills, and pain meds. I was confined to the couch or bed, managing a constantly fluctuating blood pressure, rocked by a whole array of physical symptoms and unable to eat anything. I craved people’s companionship, partially to have people praying for me or just talking to me, but mostly because if something happened when I was alone, what would I do? I simply could not imagine ever going to work again, or driving a car, or making a joke, or playing a game, or carrying on any sort of meaningful conversation. Thankfully, I could still read and was open to listen to victorious Biblical teaching outside of my normal academic choices. I removed all distractions, saturated myself in the Bible and, inspired by what I was listening to, started writing Bible verses on index cards that I began treating as more than just words on a page or an academic exercise. Fighting doubts and second-guessing myself all the way, I slowly came to truly understand six principles throughout the course of the week:
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – Jesus (John 8:32)
First Realization – the source of the anxiety
This was not a difficult determination for me to make, but it had been quite a while since I had really had to wrap my mind around it. I knew that this anxiety and fear wasn’t from God and He wanted me to be delivered. During His walk on earth, did Jesus ever give someone anxiety, or depression, or heart disease, or epilepsy, or smite them to teach them something? Further, did Jesus ever deny someone’s request for healing, because He had a larger purpose in mind? No, in our recorded Scriptures he never denied a request for deliverance; in fact He healed every single person who came to Him for this, and did not turn anyone away who came to Him in faith. And Jesus only did God the Father’s will while on this earth (John 5:19, John 12:49). Jesus heals and delivers. That’s Who He is.
“But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.” – the prophet Isaiah prophesying what Jesus would come to do, ca. 680 B.C. (Isaiah 53:5)
“When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.” – the Apostle Matthew as inspired by the Holy Spirit, ca. 70 A.D. (Matthew 8:16-17)
“and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” – the Apostle Peter as inspired by the Holy Spirit, ca. 60 A.D. (1 Peter 2:24)
In both Christian and non-Christian circles, I’ve seen many people attribute terrible things or even just bad things to everything “happening for a reason” (implying that God willed it). Of course God can “make all things work together for good,” but He didn’t necessarily cause them (Romans 8:28). The Bible’s entire history leads up to Jesus’ redemptive work to restore our relationship with God after being separated by sin and its curses. Right now we live in a broken world where babies starve and we have to constantly battle the effects of sin as well as the natural laws of the world in its now-broken state (John 5:14, Romans 2:8, Romans 5:12, Romans 6:16, 2 Peter 2:19). We also have to battle–wait for it–the devil and his lies (1 Peter 5:8, 1 John 3:8). Not a horns and pitchfork cartoon, but a legitimate, real enemy who hates everything that God stands for and twists the Truth in our minds at every chance he can get (John 8:44).
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” – the Apostle Paul as inspired by the Holy Spirit, ca. 60 A.D. (Ephesians 6:11-12)
I’ll just make the quick side comment that some people familiar with church and reading this are no doubt thinking of the trials/tribulations as described in James, 2 Corinthians, Thessalonians, and Romans that are sometimes attributed to God “putting people through things.” These trials described in the New Testament are not incompatible with the concept of God wanting deliverance for us. For example, what kind of trials were Paul, Peter, James, or the Apostles primarily dealing with on a daily basis? Things that just until recently many first-world Christians (of which I’m the first) couldn’t even imagine: heavy persecution from 24/7 ministry, often including the constant threat of physical harm or death under the Roman emperors (2 Corinthians 1:8-10, Acts 5:41, 2 Timothy 2:9, 2 Corinthians 4:9). Not trying to be insensitive, but sometimes I see a distinction between the trials (persecutions) that the apostles describe and some of the things that are just a part of this broken, messed up world that we now often flippantly describe as trials. God did not promise that Christians would be free from persecution–quite opposite actually (2 Timothy 3:12, John 15:18). Some things, though, we were never meant to live with and we don’t have to live with: pertinent here, of course, anxiety and fear (2 Timothy 1:7, Philippians 4:6-7). Was I going through a trial? Right now only a few months separated from this experience I’m not sure I would view it as one, and I don’t think it’s a question of semantics. I would be embarrassed to compare my struggle to the examples used by Paul and Peter or even believers today in other parts of the world. They had/have a completely different level of problems–active persecution due to their devotion to God–that I’d never experienced. “God gave me promises and power to overcome anxiety in this comfortable American world,” I thought to myself, “get over it and get back to serving and loving people in Jesus.”
Of course, my personal pep talk of “getting over it” was far more easily said in my mind than done and didn’t do a whole lot of good at first. Back at home, I wasn’t anywhere near there yet. Stressed out, anxiety-ridden, and battling constant symptoms, I was being constantly beaten down, incapable of doing anything. Stuck on the couch, I immersed myself in Biblical teaching, read many scriptures, and firmed up in my mind that anxiety and fear–or whatever in the world this was–was not God’s will for me.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” – Jesus (John 10:10)
Second Realization – no way out
I was given Metoprolol and Lipitor to keep my blood pressure in check, and I had a stockpile of Ambien left over from the round of anxiety attacks and sleeplessness a year prior. I also had a bag of pain meds that I carried around with me to help with the chest and back pain. The first few days the medication did help keep my blood pressure down, and I was very thankful for it. After a few days, though, I would hit lows on my blood pressure that had me out of breath and waiting to pass out. Sleep was a lost cause. Nothing I took helped me sleep.
In the meantime, I had all the wonderful side effects of the medication I was taking. After weeks of symptoms prior to the complete breakdown, and after researching what other types of meds were available for my new problems, and what those side effects were, I started to panic because there wasn’t any way out to just feel normal again. What was I going to do? I didn’t want to feel worn out, dizzy, and shaky the rest of my life!
Third Realization – who I am in Jesus
This was huge for me. For so long I had prayed through a sophisticated filter of “I really could use help with this” and “if God wants it to happen, it will.” I was guilty of plenty of rationalization to explain away unanswered prayer. Years of self-reliance as well as indulgence in entertainment and media diversions under the guise of “Christian liberty” had dulled my belief and exposure to the promises in His Word. This week however, with my heart completely open and my focus completely on God’s promises, I was hit like a sledgehammer with the power inherent in these verses:
“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” – the Apostle Peter, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, circa 64 A.D. (2 Peter 1:2-4)
“and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms” – the Apostle Paul, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, ca. 60 A.D. (Ephesians 1:19-20)
I was overwhelmed as I finally received more than a book understanding of these verses coupled with the knowledge that Jesus has already completed His work on the cross. He was pierced, scourged, and crucified 2,000 years ago. Three days later He rose from the dead, destroying sin and the power of sin in our lives–including but certainly not limited to fear and anxiety (Romans 6:6-7, Galatians 2:20). Paul in the Ephesians passage above states that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power available to the believer in Jesus, and Ephesians 3:20-21 states that this power works from within the believer. That meant me. Aside from the miracle of salvation from my sins, I had never used any real faith to believe for true deliverance from anything. I started to read the Bible in a new light, victoriously, to see who I truly am in Jesus.
Originally I approached this idea–as everything else I do–with a healthy dose of skepticism, but accounts (such as Matthew 17:16-19) of the disciples trying (and sometimes, failing) to exercise their own faith and get rid of unbelief gave me encouragement in a backwards sort of way. Other passages that fired me up: the Apostle Peter addresses all believers as having “a faith of the same kind as ours” (2 Peter 1:1). Jesus Himself declared to his disciples it was “to your advantage” that He leave (!) so that the Holy Spirit could be alive in them (John 16:7). Under Jesus’ work on the cross, this “new and living way” (Hebrews 10:19-22), even the “least” believer is greater than John the Baptist was! (Matthew 11:11).
Fourth Realization – getting my act together to attack (the Power of God’s Word)
It’s Christianity 101 to believe that Jesus died, rose again, and has already won the fight over sin and death. However, the knowledge that Jesus has also already won the fight over sin’s effects and the devil’s attacks was absolutely key for me. How could I resist and use this authority through Jesus in me for deliverance if in the back of my mind this all was “happening for a reason”? How could anyone resist and fight if they would be worried that they’d be put in the position of fighting “God’s will”?
At the time, I had no idea what was wrong with me. I was somewhat sure it was anxiety, but with a laundry list of symptoms I kept wondering if there was more involved than that. Hearing testimonies of others’ deliverances impressed upon me the importance of the Word in attacking the problem. Researching verses for myself convinced me of it.
“Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” – the Apostle Paul as inspired by the Holy Spirit, ca. 60 A.D. (Ephesians 6:13-17)
“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” – an Apostle as inspired by the Holy Spirit, ca. 70 A.D. (Hebrews 4:12)
James 4:7 (like most verses) became more relevant to me this week than it had ever been.
“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” – the Apostle James as inspired by the Holy Spirit, ca. 45 A.D. (James 4:7)
“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith… – the Apostle Peter as inspired by the Holy Spirit, ca. 60 A.D. (1 Peter 5:8-9a)
I was reminded of Matthew 4, where Jesus resisted the lies of the devil with the Word of God. This is amazing to me. He could have spoken literally anything, and it would have become doctrine that we would be talking about today. But, He went to the Word of God to resist the devil’s lies.
“But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” – Jesus, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 (Matthew 4:4)
I created a list of verses claiming God’s promises or instances in the Bible regarding faith, healing, and deliverance. Not really sure what to do at first, I just started reading them over and over, ingraining them in my mind. I’ve always hated memorizing, but now the thought occurred to me that I probably should have had a little more focus on that. Just a few of these verses were James 4:7, Psalm 91, Isaiah 53:5, 1 Timothy 6:12, 1 John 5:4, 3 John 1:2, Hebrews 13:6, 2 Timothy 1:7, Proverbs 4:20-22, 1 John 4:4, Psalm 107:20, Hebrews 11:32, Matthew 8:16-17, John 10:10, 1 Peter 2:24, Psalm 73:26, John 15:7, 2 Peter 1:2-4, Psalm 107:20, Mark 11:24, 1 John 3:8, Isaiah 43:1-2, and Philippians 4:6, as well as much study on the deliverances and healing in the gospels. Bible verses formed the basis for my resistance.
I looked at examples of Jesus healing people and saw the importance of faith–also the effects of unbelief. Even Jesus was unwilling to heal or deliver in the midst of unbelief. I had read these verses hundreds of times in my life, but now I was amazed to read them in the context of my battle.
“And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.” – the Apostle Matthew as inspired by the Holy Spirit, ca. 70 A.D. (Matthew 13:58)
“And Jesus answered saying to them, ‘Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.” – Jesus (Mark 11:22-24)
I latched on to the prayer of the boy’s father in Mark 9 and prayed to God to “help my unbelief!” It took several days, but I began to believe for healing and deliverance in spite of all the symptoms that were still racking my body. I played all kinds of mind games with myself as I started doing this, but eventually over several days immersed in the Word I really did start to expect deliverance from my anxiety. Not in a presumptuous way, like I was owed anything, but in putting into practice what Jesus had said and the Word had described.
“Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief’.” – the Disciple Mark as inspired by the Holy Spirit, ca. 70 A.D. (Mark 9:24)
Fifth Realization – speaking out loud
This too was huge for me. It also started very uncomfortably. It didn’t feel natural. But once I got beyond the initial discomfort, it was hugely freeing. I could cut straight through the doubts, fears, symptoms, and feelings swirling in my mind by speaking God’s truth directly from His Word. It didn’t matter anymore what I felt. God’s Word is true regardless of feelings.
I looked at many examples in the Bible where Jesus and the apostles healed others by speaking to the problem. In two different gospels the powerful account is told where Jesus teaches to speak to the problem:
“And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen.” – Jesus (Matthew 21:21)
I had always read that verse and kind of skipped over it; like, that was Jesus talking to His Apostles. But, for the first time I had a real revelation of it in the context of my battle. Or concerning the account in Matthew 16:21-23 of Jesus rebuking the devil through what Peter said. What a temptation it must have been to “not” go to Jerusalem and go through everything that He knew was coming. Jesus didn’t give the thought a second to fester and rebuked it immediately. What an awesome example.
I saturated my declarations with the Word of God, earnestly speaking directly to the problem and thanking God for His delivering power alive in me. This wasn’t formulaic; there were definitely times I was praying and not fully believing it (I mean, I was having real symptoms). However, near the end of the week I started to really believe it in spite of all the symptoms (Jude 20). My prayers generally took the shape of something like this, as well as literally reading passages out loud like Psalm 23 or 91:
“God, thank you for being a good God, and for being my deliverer. I have not been given a spirit of fear or timidity, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world. Anxiety and fear, you have no authority over me as a disciple of Jesus with His power living in me, and I rebuke you in the name of Jesus. By His stripes and scourging I am healed. Thank you, Father, for your precious and magnificent promises and for the incredible gift of your Son to rescue me from my sin and deliver me from anxiety and fear. Father, I thank you for my deliverance. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Sixth Realization – Praise!
“But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” – the Apostle Paul as inspired by the Holy Spirit, ca. 50 A.D. (Galatians 6:14)
As I learned anew of the full extent of what Jesus did for me and had delivered me from, I was overwhelmed. As the single perfect sacrifice for my sins to restore my relationship with God (Hebrews 10:14), the only reason I could claim victory over my anxiety and fear was because of what He did on the cross.
Philippians 4:4-9 and Colossians 2:6-7 were key passages for me in the importance of praise. As I began to see His promises become alive in my life when I would have even a half hour of feeling better, I made it a point to praise Him. I can’t say that I always felt like praising because I generally felt so awful, but taking time to praise God and focusing on Him also necessarily took my mind off of my anxiety-ridden problems. I journaled praises throughout the week, writing down moments when I grasped a new truth or had small moments of deliverance. I was also thanking God for each hour that was better than the hour before, or the hour yesterday.
I created a playlist of worship songs and used them to help keep my whirling mind in check. If I wasn’t listening to Biblical teaching, worship music was playing. Matt Redman’s 10,000 Reasons at several points of the week was on constant repeat as I tried to sleep. This started almost as a necessity to keep my mind from spinning out of control, but by the end of the week became pure praise and worship in awe of His love, deliverance, and power given to me. I would learn in subsequent weeks that my general reactionary attitude toward praise was completely backwards (praise should precede everything and also is a “defense” in itself), but that is a post for another day.
Glimmers of Hope
Now, don’t be impressed by how well organized my anxiety/symptom battling tactics were, as those six points were nowhere near that fleshed out as I struggled through the week. Keyword underline it, italicize it, bold it, struggled. I was a walking example of 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, breaking down all my skeptical what-if’s and doubts: “will these promises in the Bible really work today, for me?” But, I slowly started to put God’s Truth in the Bible above what I was feeling, taking notes to chronicle my journey the whole way. I went from curled up on the couch, feeling like a truck hit me, to celebrating because I was able to eat a bowl of soup or take a shower.
Even after starting to grab a hold of God’s promises, I did have moments where I let panic and fear run rampant all over me. On Friday, three days after my initial breakdown, I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled and was looking forward to the doctor’s reassurance. On the way there, I was seized with another complete panic attack where I was convinced I was having a heart attack. Looking back now, I believe I know why this happened as I hadn’t yet made an important confession that you’ll read about below. Also at this point, I was still very self conscious about speaking to the problem (my wife might hear me!) and I let it overwhelm my mind. I was still trying–mostly failing–to maintain an aura of confident self-sufficiency; what would other people think about my new “extreme spirituality?” Speaking to the problem? That’s like, weird. Or the more subtle doubts: this is crazy, it won’t really work. I didn’t give up or give in, though; slowly I made progress in the areas that were holding me back: unbelief, pride, incorrect beliefs, self-consciousness, fear.
Rebounding from this Friday afternoon panic attack, I had been believing for Proverbs 3:24 over my sleeplessness and saw that promise fulfilled that night (In context, I believe this resulted from a renewed focus on keeping the rest of Proverbs 3). I was able to sleep for four hours and was refreshed only in a way that a man who slept four hours over the past four days could be. Saturday was noticeably better (all things considered) and I spent the morning praising God since the week had been so awful. I was starting to feel less of a zombie, but was still very shaky.
No Holds Barred
On Saturday afternoon, I finally summoned enough energy to go with my wife to get groceries (this was a huge milestone). Halfway there I started having misgivings about this decision and, sure enough, as we were pulling into the parking lot I was in the middle of another full blown anxiety attack. However, this time I was in a state ready for battle. I pulled out my Bible (it didn’t leave my side all week) and started resisting the attack by claiming God’s promises (literally, Bible verses and passages) and claiming authority in Jesus over anxiety and the enemy’s attacks. I called up my prayer warrior parents and had them agreeing with me for victory.
For the first time, I noticed something different. The prayers of my parents and my wife didn’t have the same effect as they had during the week. And my prayers seemed to carry more power. It was my battle, not theirs. Several times I began talking over their prayers because I needed to. Even throughout several waves of chest tightness, I was gaining ground. The anxiety was being pushed back. Waves of fear, which I’m convinced were from–yes–the devil, crashed inside my head (Ephesians 6:12): we need to start driving to the hospital! An hour sitting in the parking lot had passed.
I told my wife to start driving back home–again thinking in the back of the mind that heading for home meant getting closer to the hospital in case the heart palpitations and chest pain got out of control. As we pulled into our subdivision, I remember marveling at how normal our neighborhood looked, because I felt so oppressed.
After we pulled into the driveway, I somehow stumbled into the house. All of a sudden, I had a thought pop into my head: “What am I putting my comfort in?” I immediately knew the answer, and before I even said anything, I just knew everything was going to be okay. I felt warmth start to envelope me as I confessed the following, directly in line with the first part of James 4:7. I had gotten really good at the second part of the verse and was seeing definite results by “resisting.” It wasn’t complete though. “Submitting to God” was the final barrier, as I confessed out loud:
“I am not putting my comfort in being at the hospital.”
“I am not putting my comfort in having people around me praying for me.”
“I put my comfort in You, God, alone.”
Once I spoke those words, I was completely overwhelmed by God’s peace surrounding me. I collapsed face first on the floor, my chest pain, anxiety, and other symptoms immediately gone, replaced by–no other way to describe it–the Philippians 4:7 peace, peace that surpassed anything I’ve ever experienced. I haven’t cried in twenty years. That streak was broken tenfold, and all I could think facedown on the floor was, “God’s Word is true. It’s alive. Jesus and the Bible’s promises are real. God, thank you for not giving up on me.” This is what True Christianity and the good news of the gospel through Jesus was: salvation from my sins as well as deliverance from all the baggage that comes with those sins–in my case, anxiety and fear. I finally had begun to understand the principles in the Bible as they related to my years of battling anxiety. Had I understood these principles and really committed to them months or years before I could have been saved from so much struggle. Not to mention thousands of dollars in medical bills (ER bills are especially wonderful).
Allow me a brief aside for those who read the intro before realizing how much of a time commitment this post would be and skipped to the end. (Hey, I’ve done it before too.) I do not believe that God put this anxiety in my life to run me through the spiritual wringer. God absolutely “worked all things together for good,” but I had to take action also. If I had given up resisting and decided that I just needed to accept this as some sort of grand spiritual lesson or as “just the way it is,” right now I’d be taking anxiety and blood pressure meds, sleeping poorly, and still praying to Jesus to “please deliver me” when He already did all His world-delivering work 2,000 years ago. As a believer in Jesus, I had “faith of the same kind” and the same “precious and magnificent promises” that were available to Peter and all the apostles (2 Peter 1:1-4); why wasn’t I using them?
Skepticism is second nature to me, but the deliverance on Saturday, April 18, confirmed twenty-five years of intellectual knowledge of God through His Word and opened every half-open door of my heart to the Holy Spirit’s real life-changing power enacted in me through Jesus’ work on the cross. I had skated along safely for years as a cerebral, skeptical Christian with extremely infrequent emotional bursts because, you know, that’s not really me. I had never truly believed for a Biblical promise in faith. Well, everything changed in that moment when I saw real, tangible deliverance after exercising faith in God’s Word. My previous duty-driven obligation to read the Bible became an expected and exciting benefit of being a disciple of Christ, not to mention a necessity to keep equipping myself. “Theologically simple” worship songs in my Praise and Worship mix became (completely out of character for me) spontaneous praise moments every morning and while driving in the car. And, through Jesus’ completed work on the cross, anxiety is a defeated foe, subservient to Christ’s power through the Holy Spirit, alive in me. It just took me twenty years to realize it.
“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” – the Apostle Paul as inspired by the Holy Spirit, ca. 57 B.C. (Romans 8:37)
EDIT: I’ve since written a followup post from the perspective of four months later. Check it out here.
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