When Pride Leads To Panic
I have a few strong indicators that alert me to building stress in my life. Almost always, my body physically reacts before I even realize I am feeling overworked or anxious. Generally, when I notice the warning signs I try to pinpoint what might be the cause of the stress and I run around in mental circles.
Even in my 30’s my skin and complexion are not my friends! When my stress buttons get pressed my skin erupts in bumps and blemishes. My subconscious also tries to signal stress by a recurring dream involving disorganization and a poorly planned schedule. When my skin and my sleep are affected, I know that something is discouraging my peace and I want to find and eliminate it!
Once I realize that something is agitating me, I begin to pray through the standard list: family and friends. I thank God for His many blessings and pray over my loved ones. During these prayers, my brain likes to trip me up with worst case scenarios and “what ifs” that should be covered in prayer. Unsurprisingly, this adds to any stress I already face and creates internal drama. Rather than ushering in peace, I find myself beginning to panic.
Tonight, I went through the steps above. I even added in the extra step of guilt over lazy parenting during summer break. I replayed all the missed moments I had today, yesterday, and last week and how I was a poor example of the very areas in which I’m trying to train my boys. As my mind started to spiral my heart began to race. I began to feel overheated, my legs felt like jelly, and I couldn’t quite catch my breath. It was the beginnings of a panic attack and fear crept into my mind.
Panic attacks used to be my norm. I was extremely insecure and didn’t have a strong sense of self. I felt like I was playing pretend with my life. I wasn’t just hiding from others or putting up a fancy facade, I genuinely didn’t even know who the “real” me was. I was confused and lost.
As I grew older, I began to find my identity in Christ and to claim my faith as my own. I studied my Bible for my own enlightenment and encouragement and not just because it was assigned for school. I realized that life is less about me and more about Jesus within me. The super abbreviated version of my freedom from crippling anxiety is Jesus met me, called me to Himself, and gave me His Spirit. “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).
“Why is this happening now?” I silently cried out to God. It had been countless months since my last attack. I couldn’t pin point a stressor that had been building. I hadn’t had any recent confrontations to pester my sub conscious. No major life changes were imminent and I thought that my spiritual walk was steady and sure.
It all boils down to sin, my pride. I try to control my own life and I make selfish decisions. These decisions affect my peace and my flesh wrestles with the Spirit of God. I quench the Spirit and try to insert my own will over my everyday moments. Only now, after years of prayer and faith building, instead of waiting for the implosion of my own plans my soul panics at the loss of reliance on the Holy Spirit to guide my steps.
This attack was a warning, a stealth attack to return my heart to it’s proper position at the foot of the cross. My sensitivity to the Spirit has grown and when I try to wander my heart and flesh react. The “danger!” alert is triggered and I seek the peace that passes all understanding. My flesh is the source of the stumbling block, but then, my spirit pricks my flesh to respond negatively. My flesh is both my greatest weakness and a tool fashioned by my good Creator.
So tonight, when the quickened beating of my heart threatened to drown out the whispers in my soul and my jittery limbs distracted me from the Solid Rock that is my foundation, I repented of my pride and confessed my lack to my Lord and Savior. I’m not going to tell you that immediately my heart settled it’s rhythm, my sweats evaporated, and all the swirling thoughts disappeared as if they had never entered my mind. No, the results were not immediate but I did feel peace cover and mute all those other issues and I drifted off into restful sleep. Tonight, the attack began with a dream of a disorganized locker and confusion about what my class schedule. When I returned to sleep I also returned to this dream, but I confidently printed a copy of my scheduled, taped it to my locker door, grabbed my needed supplies, and closed my locker.
Anxiety presents itself differently in everybody. Some symptoms are more common than others, but I doubt others have dreams of messy lockers and rushing into government class before realizing you are actually assigned English on the opposite side of the building. The root of anxiety remains the same, however. We all struggle with the sin of pride, whether in attempting to control our own lives or not trusting God to control the circumstances in our lives. This truth remains: Jesus declared to those whom He chooses, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) He is able to provide for His creation. He is able to sustain His people. He is able to comfort and encourage His children. He desires to remove the burdens of the world off our shoulders and to envelope us with His banner of love.