Last week my oldest son, Daniel, had an allergic reaction to a prescribed medication. His symptoms worried me and his theatrical tendencies only added fuel to the fire. While he dragged himself to bed, he gave me his most pitiful look and said, "See you in the morning, if I am still alive... ." After that, I let my thoughts run out of control and my anxiety skyrocketed. This came as a complete surprise to me because, even though I have been closely acquainted with fear, it has been a while since I have gone there.
I had my first panic attack at age nine. I was so fearful of death, and my unbelieving friends and family could not provide me with answers. This fear became increasingly crippling. Even when I became a believer at age 14, things did not change. Later on, during my pregnancies, my level of panic became almost unbearable. Ironically, I would wish for death, the thing I feared so greatly. I would plead with God to remove this fear, plaster my wall with Bible verses, and ask others for prayer. Still, nothing changed. When I went into labor with my sixth child, Hanna, I feared for her life and mine so strongly that I needed sedatives in order to endure the delivery. I felt completely defeated.
Three months later, Hanna contracted a respiratory virus. Her breathing suddenly became so labored, I was not sure we would make it to the E.R. in time. At her release from the hospital, four days later, I was admonished by the nurses to keep Hanna close to me and listen to her breathing at all times. Here I was, exhausted but unable to sleep as I was remembering the death of my first daughter, Anita. Ani had been exactly the same age as Hanna when she was not able to breathe at night. I had felt responsible for Ani's death, guilty for having slept when she needed me. Now panic crowded in again because keeping watchful every minute was beyond my ability.
Then and there I decided to put Philippians 4:6 into practice: "Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
I thanked God for planning Hanna's life and for loving her more than I ever could. I confessed that I could not do anything to prolong her life beyond his plans. I thanked God for his goodness and entrusted Hanna into his hands. After that prayer, I slept.
There was a noticeable change after I had learned to thank God for his promises, rather than being guided by my emotions. During my next pregnancy I was free from anxiety and able to enjoy every moment. (As soon as the morning sickness subsided.) My fear of death was so completely gone that even 18 months ago, when my doctor suspected I might have a cancer with a 95% fatality rate, all I could feel was the joy of getting to see my Savior's face sooner than expected. I thought anxiety was something of the past.
Last week when anxiety reared its ugly head again, I realized that faith needs to be exercised anew each time a difficult situation arises. It is not something we overcome and then possess for the rest of our lives. Each day provides new opportunities to trust God. Speaking out truth and thanking God for it, is a very practical way of taking our thoughts captive, replacing them with God's thoughts, and placing our lives in God's hands, irrespective of our emotions
Last week I chose not to feel defeated because of my anxiety, but to run to Jesus instead. As I thanked him for his compassion, for sharing my humanity, for his complete control, for loving Daniel more than I do, and for holding the future in his hands, I experienced what is promised in Philippians 4:7:
"And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."