Panic Attacks and Trust in God (Psalm 56:3-4)
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. 4 In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? —Psalm 56:3-4
If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you know it is not just the run-of-the-mill kind of fear. Are you afraid to speak in front of a group? Or afraid of financial failure? Panic attack fear is not like that. It is irrational—dark, debilitating, and very difficult to describe. Years ago, when little was known about the cause of panic attacks, I lived with this fear. One moment I would be basking on the beach of well-being and without warning be hit by the tsunami of overwhelming, crushing fear. The wave would rise up out of what I thought were peaceful waters and come breaking in, stripping away all sense of security. The panic would tear at my soul and leave me grabbing desperately for an anchor.
I was newly born again in Christ when I had my first panic attack, and I came to realize that it is possible for fear and faith to occupy the same mind—“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.” When David wrote Psalm 56, he expressed his fear and his trust in God in the same breath. As a new believer, I was just beginning to understand the depth of my sin and the power of the cross of Christ to deliver me. And as He is faithful to do with all of His children, God put me in the school of learning to trust in Him—no matter what. He began the work of growing my dependence upon Him through panic attacks that drove me to Him and His Word. These were sweet times of such joy—of being sheltered in the secret of His tabernacle (Psalm 27:5), feasting on the bread of His word, and learning depths of His covenant I never would have known without this suffering. He is true and faithful! “This I know, that God is for me” (Psalm 56:9). And when the tsunami wave of fear came rushing in, He stood with me in it, holding me firm in the anchor of His promises. “In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.”
“Be gracious to me, O God” (Psalm 56:1). When I think back on the years of living with panic attacks, I am amazed at the sufficiency of God’s grace. His grace is more than enough. My life in Christ, and the glory I desire to bring Him, is not dependent upon my strength, but on His power that, in ways I cannot fully understand, is made perfect in my weakness. I will gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9).
May Christ’s power rest on us. We do not need to look far to find reasons to fear in our world today. But God is always teaching us to trust and depend on Him completely, to not be afraid, to remember that neither life nor death, our own weaknesses and strengths, the power of flesh and blood or the spiritual forces we cannot see—none of these can ever separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Whoever believes in Him will never perish, but have everlasting life. “What can flesh do to me?” (References: Romans 8:38-39; John 3:16; Psalm 56:4)
1. Make a chart this week. On the left side of the chart list the things that cause you to panic, worry, or fear. Then on the right side, can you list a corresponding promise in God’s Word that will anchor you and strengthen your faith in Christ? (to say with David “in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.”) 2. Meditate on the promises of God that you discover correspond to your fear; preach them to your fear-ravaged soul, and He will give you His power to glorify Him in all things, even in your fears and weaknesses.