In a hotel gym while on vacation with my family, I stepped down from the treadmill to stretch, and found myself flat on my back—vision blurred. I reached for my phone to ask for help—thankfully I could. My sister helped me unglue from the ground and wobble to the elevator.
Physically, I was not hurt—just weak. But mentally and emotionally, I had suffered from the incessant message from my body that my time on earth must surely be over soon, and from sudden lack of ability to fully direct my mental state. I had experienced my first and worst panic attack.
A Greater Reality
I have previously written about being nourished by Christ in the wilderness of anxiety and about how to endure panic attacks. Today’s writing is about insight into the gospel that panic attacks afford.
Every panic attack of mine has been a real experience, of course. But experience alone does not have the power to tell me who I am or what is important to me. Panic attacks have not been my most pressing reality, though they have constantly communicated the message to me that they should be.
God through His true Word defines my reality. Believing this, I am able to evaluate my experience of panic attacks by God’s Word, and grow in my understanding of God’s grace. This suffering has grown my gratitude toward God for his salvation, because I better grasp what I have been saved from.
A Greater Fear
Death is naturally among the worst suffering we can imagine. During a panic attack, this fear is severely amplified. Yet, death being brought to the forefront of one’s mind is actually a gracious gift (Ecclesiastes 7:2). Instead of avoiding thoughts about death, we can boldly grapple with them in the light of God’s Word.
Contrary to our imaginations, Scripture tells us that physical death is not mankind’s worse fear—what comes after is chief (Matthew 10:28). We can see from Scripture that death actually ought to be feared by those who do not know Christ because physical death leads to the second, spiritual death of everlasting torment and the eternal loss of right relationship with God.
Those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus…will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might… (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9)
This irreconcilable, eternal loss of right relationship with the Lord is to be feared far more than the worst imaginable earthly suffering. Think—every minute of suffering we experience on this earth, including the most debilitating minute of panic, is a far superior of an experience to that of hell’s eternal destruction.
If you have experienced panic attacks and know this form of suffering, aren’t you motivated to come to terms with your eternal reality in all truth?
Your deepest need is not to find a practical tool to manage your panic attacks—please don’t get stuck on that concern. Felt-safety in the present alone is not the most important consideration of your life—eternal safety is.
A Greater Relief
Look to Christ. In Him we see that suffering need not be endless, and death need not be feared (1 Corinthians 15:54-55), despite what your body continues to tell you.
If you do not yet know what it means to commit your life to Christ, might you see your panic attacks as God’s grace to help you understand the devastation of sin and the kindness of Christ, who forgives sin and restores eternal peace through His blood shed on the cross?
Hear me clearly—I understand well that panic attacks are not necessarily the direct result of sin in your life. Panic attacks can spring from physiological concerns. In fact, for years now, I have traced my anxiety to eating gluten. Perhaps a physiological cause in your case has not been determined. Still, sin plays a significant role in the presence of all panic attacks for all people, whether they are due purely to physiological causes or not.
Because of the first sin of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, sin has become part of our nature. And, suffering is a large part of our experience (Genesis 3). Suffering, including panic attacks, is a consequence of original sin. So, whether sin directly causes your panic attacks or not, its presence reminds you that you live in a world and a body subject to this suffering. And further, we all would have done the same as Adam and Eve in the garden; all are unworthy of glorious eternity with God (Romans 3:23)
But Jesus Christ has come. He gloriously redeems the believer from sin, breaking its power over us. He eternally restores peace with Him for those who give their lives to Him in faith—offering salvation from the penalty for sin—eternal damnation—through His blood shed on the cross. This is the best reality and dearest good for all who believe. For peace with God far surpasses even the peace you imagine would come to you right now if your body would forever stop attacking you with panic.
The Greatest Peace
Christ changes the future for all who have faith in Him as Lord and Savior. He promises that in eternity, the presence of sin and its consequences will be eradicated forever from his people (Revelation 21:3-4, 27). And he changes the present, transforming this life with his joy, peace, and hope in believing—whether panic attacks subside or not.
I know the pain; please know how sorry I am that anyone else would have to endure it. I also know that we can use panic attacks as an opportunity to better rejoice in the gospel of Christ and to be blessed with richer comprehension of his salvation and eternal peace.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-5)
You may not be able to boast in a life free from panic attacks. But believe in the Lord Jesus, and you can boast with all gratitude in the One who determines our far greater reality, saves us from our greatest fear, and gives us the greatest peace from which all other peace flows. Peace, dear reader, to you!