The fear of a panic attack ensuing is a big part of the suffering that comes from tortuous events. They can strike at any moment. We know that there may be certain triggers, but ultimately, they’re unpredictable. They’re detrimental, and quite frankly, a nuisance.
As believers, we strive to focus on the joy, love, and hope that Jesus freely gives us. This can become a struggle when we’re living in constant fear of having a panic episode.
At the end of this article, I’ll share a short prayer that I wrote to aid in my impending panic, but first, let’s discuss panic and what the Bible says about it.
The journey to entirely healing from recurring panic attacks is a long one. Therapists point out that panic attacks won’t disappear altogether in the beginning. These episodes will gradually decrease as we learn our triggers and the healthy ways to cope. Wherever you may be, spending time in prayer can help calm racing thoughts. In the act of surrendering our thoughts to God, we can tune out the environment or stressors. In a way, I often see my panic attacks as an escape that forces me into time with God. Perhaps panic is a signal he uses to call us to him—a siren for us to stop everything and seek his face.
The verses below have helped me visually put an image to my panic and how God has helped me through it.
“In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.”Psalm 18:6
“He sent from on high, he took me;Psalm 18:16-17
he drew me out of many waters.
He rescued me from my strong enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.”
“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”Jeremiah 33:3
May we be reminded that in our darkest moments, God is near to us. May we also be reminded that in those moments, we may feel like we’re drowning in fear and anxiety, but God’s hand is reaching down to pull us up to the surface to breathe. Focusing on his power instead of our own will widen that tunnel of fear and expose his light, overcoming the darkness.
Another thing that helped me was “naming the shame.” I believe a lot of my panic attacks were caused by an internal feeling of shame and unworthiness that I held onto. “Naming the shame,” which Brené Brown talks about a lot in her book, Daring Greatly, is a sure fire way to take away its power. Shame is this dark thing that we try to hide. A great friend of mine told me that if more people shared whatever they were hiding, we would realize that we’re all hiding together. Two quotes from Daring Greatly explain this beautifully:
“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”1Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown up, we would no longer be vulnerable but to grow up, is to accept vulnerability. To be alive is to be vulnerable.”2Madeline L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections of Faith and Art
It can be cathartic to tell people about our pain because we release a weight off of us in asking for help. The courage to do so also gives others courage. When I hear people talking about things that I’ve gone through, that I dare not say out loud, I receive courage to not only say “Me too,” but say, “Let’s get through it together.” These days, I proudly share my story of dealing with panic attacks and how God walked me through the fire because I’ve gained strength from hearing others stories.
This particular prayer poem has saved me on numerous occasions through my feelings of panic. It’s short, sweet and to the point. My panic attacks, being quick and sudden in nature, needed something quick to ease the dialogue in my head. Use it for when you start to feel anxious or know you will encounter a trigger.
“Give me strength,Anela-Lani Kahanaoi-Nichols, “In No Time”
Give me grace,
I trust in you,
& live at your pace.”
If you’ve been suffering from panic attacks alone, please reach out for help from a friend or professional. We can ask God to put the right people on our path to aid us and often, he will answer in ways we won’t see coming. I have many close friends and therapists to thank on my journey to where I am now. I no longer suffer from panic attacks that had lasted over five years in my early 20s. I’m an example of trying and failing, suffering and learning, trauma and healing. I hope this article gives you courage and reminds you that we’re never alone. God is always near; we must surrender to him. Be encouraged that there is light and joy always available to you.
A Note from the Editor
While some of you may resonate with these stories and experiences, we understand that no two stories are the same. Our enemy is cunning and knows exactly which lies to whisper in our ear to pull us back into isolation and depression. The Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12), and we encourage you to wield it as a sword against the lies of the enemy—but don’t do it alone. There are times when we are so weary from battling the lies of the enemy that we don’t have the strength to stand. Ecclesiastes 4:9 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.” Find friends and community who will speak God’s truth to you and over you. You are not alone in this fight.
In his infinite wisdom, God has chosen to work through ordinary people to accomplish his eternal purposes for our good and his glory. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I mentioned Ecclesiastes 4:9 earlier; the very next verse says, “Woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” Too often, we wait until we have fallen and have no one to lift us up before we seek help. God can work through organizations and resources like these to provide you with the tools and friends you need to ensure you have help when you need it. And if we can pray with you and for you, we would love to do so. You can submit your prayer request here. If you need to speak with someone immediately, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
1 Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. (United Kingdom: Penguin Books Limited, 2013), 69.
2 Madeline L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections of Faith and Art (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2016), 182. Cited in Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, (London, UK: Penguin Books Limited, 2013), 43.
Photo credit: Michael Marcagi
Anela-Lani is a Chuukese-American writer living in Maui. She hosts her podcast—the Beloved Young Thing Podcast—for young, island women where she talks about spirituality and mental health. She is a lover of Jesus, her family, poetry, art, surfing and all things beautiful.