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Prayerfully address panic, fear and anxiety

How do you know whether the fear or anxiety you experience is out of control? How do you discern whether its origins are from circumstances or purely a spiritual attack? And, once you have discerned the origin of the fear or anxiety you experience, what can you practically do or pray to stop it? These are important questions everyone should ask themselves.

First of all, it is important to understand that to feel fear, panic, or anxiety is not wrong. We are broken people in a broken world and we face daily challenges. Even Gideon in the Bible, was fearful when God called him to attack and overthrow the enemies of Israel. He had a lot of reasons to be fearful too! Although he was overwhelmed by circumstances, he kept on making good choices and God sustained him in his weakness. Eventually Gideon did many exploits for the glory of God. This can be true for every Believer.

Our response to such emotions is important. The first step in the right direction to address any such emotion, is to pause and discern the reason or source for a specific panic attack, fear, or anxiety attack. Although we may experience the effects (physically) accompanying panic, anxiety or fear, even in extreme cases we have a choice how to respond to them.

 

Possible reasons for panic, fear or anxiety

1. When someone’s life is endangered, giving in to emotions like these can cost them their life – therefore, it is important to focus immediately, and find the best and safest way to flee or escape the specific situation without endangering others. This is the case for example when someone is threatened by a wild animal, a hostage situation, a car accident, a war etc.

2. Continuous stressful situations, whether at work, because of an illness, emotional or physical abuse, can also cause an emotional state of fear, anxiety or panic. Often the person’s body will also respond, and they may experience heart palpitations, rapid breathing patterns, or a sudden rise in blood pressure. At such times one must immediately address the matter by taking care of the body’s response, which may either be by taking deep breaths, lying down, drinking some fluids etc. Once the body becomes more restful, the emotions will also settle down, and the person may be able to better assess the precise matter that overwhelmed them at that point.

3. Fears and phobias, e.g. of a spider, of being in a small physical space without windows, or of the dark. A person may feel cramped when seated in a middle row or overwhelmed by a lot of noise or loud music. These external triggers of fear, anxiety or panic comes through what a person sees, hears, or physically feels. Once a person learns these things about themselves, they can avoid such environments, or decide how they will respond should any such circumstances cross their way.

4. Spiritual attacks. When we experience such emotions and cannot pin-point a specific possible origin for them, it might be that you are under spiritual attack. Every instance of fear is a result of the fallen world we live in and our response to it. However, whether it is specifically a spiritual attack, can be extremely difficult to determine, so what can you do? Scripture is clear from James 4:7 – Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

 

Spend enough time with God and often refresh yourself in Him.

 

Ask the Holy Spirit to show you any possible instance of sin in your life that may have left you open or vulnerable to a spiritual attack. Repent of anything He shows you. Then, you can say out loud; Devil I resist you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, you have to leave me right now! Be sure you spend enough time with God and often refresh yourself in Him. The devil will flee from you, since he cannot bear being in the presence of the Lord who shines in and through your life because of your love for God’s presence.

 

What do I do?

Whatever the reason may be for going through a tough time and facing fears, or having panic or anxiety attacks, there is a solution. In extreme occurrences of these emotions, it can be of much value to seek external help. Find someone who can assist while you are going through a tough time and can help equip you with tools to address such emotions when they occur. This is important and wise to include in the process of addressing fears and anxieties.

For Believers, there is a sure hope and anchor for their soul, and it is found in the well-known verse in 2 Corinthians 10:5 – …casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ… and also 2 Timothy 1:7 – For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

 

What we ‘put into our minds’ affects what we think.

 

An example of ‘the knowledge of God’, is that He is faithful and true, and that He has our best interest at heart. Therefore, every thought that argues against this truth, must be rejected. Taking thoughts captive simply means gaining control over what you think, whether it be about yourself, or life in general, or others.  Also, what we ‘put into our minds’ affects what we think. Make an assessment: What type of movies do you watch? How much time a day do you spend watching, reading or listening to things with content that is largely negative, frightening or depressing in nature?  God has provided a way for us to overcome unhealthy thoughts and behaviours to gain the self-control we seek. It is therefore a matter of taking charge of your thought life, but to do it His way and with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Consider the following that may help you to take captive those thoughts that seem overwhelming:

1. Accept responsibility for your thoughts. Are you willing to admit that you can, with God’s help, take control of your thoughts? Are you willing to deliberately stop thinking thoughts that are demoralising and focus on God instead?

2. Think ‘through’ your problems rather than just ‘react’ to them. When challenging circumstances arise, you can either spiral down into despair every time, or you can stop yourself right there and ask: is this true? Or you can look back on an incident that caused you despair and assess how to respond in the future when a similar incident occurs. If your first thoughts are e.g.; I can never do anything right? or Here I go again, I am just a failure as always, and you ‘recognise’ these specific types of sentences, you can stop going down that spiral of thought the next time something happens that triggers them. You don’t have to get trapped by disabling thoughts. It is absolutely possible to break free from thoughts of shame, despair, hopelessness and anger by taking control of your thoughts.

3. When overthinking, tell yourself to ‘stop’! In 2 Corinthians 10:5 Paul urges them to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” It takes concentration and practise to watch your thoughts and take rule over them each time, but with the help of the Holy Spirit this is possible. You may consider making a list of Scriptures you can ‘resort’ to when recognising the demoralising thoughts.

4. Ask someone to pray with you. It is no shame to ask a friend or someone you trust to cover you in prayer while you are going through a tough time in dealing with such emotions. You can let them know when you experience a specific time of the day which is difficult. You will be surprised how quickly you will be strengthened and recover, thus becoming stronger in your walk with God sooner than you think.

5. Don’t miss the opportunity for growth. When you go through difficulties, ensure that you draw close to the Lord and listen for His voice. Follow His leading and obey His word. What you experience and learn in a certain situation, can be invaluable to others going through similar struggles.

 

Scripture rescue

Consider writing out these Scriptures from your favourite version of the Bible. You can even use different translations. Keep them handy in your home, in your handbag, in your suitcase when you travel, etc. Whenever you experience thoughts of anxiety, fear or panic feel overwhelmed, you can take the verses out and slowly pray through them until your mind, thoughts and heart settle again in God’s peace.

Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

2 Corinthians 10:5 – …casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…

2 Timothy 1:7 – For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Isaiah 41:10 – Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

Psalm 23:4 – Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 27:1, 3, 5 – The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 3 Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident. 5 For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.

Psalm 46:1 – God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea…

Psalm 118:5-6 – I called on the LORD in distress; the LORD answered me and set me in a broad place. 6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?

Isaiah 41:13 – For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’

 

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