Last month I had a panic attack.
It was a full blown, heart pumping, blood rushing, fists clenching, freak-out. To feel like you have no control over your own mind and body is a scary thing. I would have screamed if there had been enough breath in my lungs.
I forgot how excruciating anxiety can be. It’s been a whole year and a half since my last, real, room-spinning episode. God is a healer and it’s amazing how once we’re whole, we forget what it feels like to be broken.
I’d almost forgotten what fear felt like.
I’d forgotten fear is stealthy. That it cloaks itself under the guise of concern for your well-being. I’d forgotten that fear makes you highly conscious of all the things that could possibly go wrong, and all the reasons they are likely to.
I’d forgotten fear is magic. It allows you to feel everything… even the imaginary. Imaginary illnesses creeping through your body. Imaginary accidents, just waiting to happen. Imaginary glances from the judgmental eyes of imaginary enemies and their disapproving snubs.
I’d forgotten fear is “helpful.” Reminding you every day of all the areas you can (and are) failing in; keeping you awake at night, lest you fall into a deep sleep and never wake up again.
Every once in a while that deep kind of fear steals into my heart, and robs me of my good sense and self-control. Sometimes, it’s as simple as having bad dreams that feel real. Like, really, really real. Fear overwhelms me, choking me like a wet blanket held taut against my face. I call that kind of fear, “suffocating while breathing.”
I know the Bible. I know that scripture tells me that perfect love casts out fear. The words on the page tell me that God is perfect love, and He loves perfectly. Yet, even after all these years of loving and serving Him, I still find fear lurking in the dark corners of my battered heart.
It’s in these dark moments that I cling to the life-giving promise of 2 Corinthians 12:9: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
When shame tries to slink in, riding on the back of my darkest fears, I can boast in that. When panic seizes me and I am overwhelmed, I can boast in that. When, in humility, I admit I need the strength of my brothers and sisters in Christ to carry me through my weaknesses, I can boast in that.
I can boast in my frailty, because I know my weakness highlights God’s strength. I can praise God for my brokenness, because I know His power and glory is shown through making me whole. I can rest, even in the restless tension of my healing, because I know God’s sustaining grace is sufficient for the in-between time.
One day, all the fears of this world will fade away and only the things of God will remain. Until that day, God’s all powerful grace still sustains.