A few months ago I experienced a major anxiety attack.
In the church.
During a meeting.
In front of several people.
For an extended period of time.
It wasn’t pretty. My pastor and his wife could tell you so. A reverend, several acquaintances, a member of the First Aid Team, and my husband could tell you the same. They prayed for me as I cried, moaned, and gasped for air.
In the days after the anxiety attack, I experienced a flurry of emotions. I was confused, saddened, angry, embarrassed, and frustrated. I knew what triggered the attack, but I was bothered that God had allowed me to become a public spectacle. I tried to make sense of things but the logical reasoning I usually relied upon failed to provide answers. The husband who frequently helped me sort things out didn’t have the answers either.
It didn’t take long for all the negative emotions to begin wearing me down. I soon became tired. Finally, I stopped beating the air (I Corinthians 9:26), waved the spiritual flag of surrender, and talked to God about what I had experienced. I kept waiting to have a huge epiphany, a moment when God would explain things in a loud, clear, and concise manner, but it didn’t happen.
God remained silent. Had He forgotten me? Did He no longer care? Was He playing a cruel joke? Then one day, I was preparing a Bible lesson for the girlies and reread the passage of scripture about the prophet Elijah fleeing from the evil King Ahab and his wife Queen Jezebel:
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (I Kings 19:11-13)
It was then that things started to click. Because my mind was so filled with noisy negativity and because my heart expected God to show Himself in a certain way, I nearly missed His gentle whisper. After that, I quieted myself. God led me to other scriptures and I began to see that in allowing me to break down, God was actually building me up. I was allowed to become vulnerable so that God could teach me some lessons I needed to learn.
- God allowed me to break down so He could remind me not to rely on my own strength (Proverbs 3:5). By nature I’m a Type A personality. I like to do things myself so I know they’ve been done “right”. Many times in an effort to get a job done, I’ve been guilty of forging ahead on my own and seeking God’s counsel much, much later. That is always recipe for disaster.
- God allowed me to break down to remind me that when I am weak, He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9). I once heard Pastor Tony Evans say, “Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom, so you know He is The Rock at the bottom.” This was so true for me. My anxiety attack left me feeling weak and scarred, but God used that experience to show me that my moments of weakness are the perfect times for Him to display the power His healing, life changing strength.
- God allowed me to break down so I would have more compassion toward others (Galatians 6:2). Though I’m a lover of people, I’m not always as compassionate as I know God wants me to be. I know this attitude is rooted in previous hurts and disappointments, but it’s not an excuse to forgo compassion. As I later considered the people who helped me that anxious evening, the people who took the time to call and check on me the next day, and the ones who stopped to pray for me the following Sunday, I was reminded that God intends for us to love one another and share one another’s burdens.
- Ultimately, God allowed me to break down so I could draw closer to him (Psalm 73:28). God always wants us to be close to Him.That way when trouble comes we won’t need to look for or run to Him. When I remain close to Him, all I have to do is lean in. He’s already there.
Vulnerability is frightening, but sometimes necessary. When I think more deeply about vulnerability, I’m reminded of how God allowed Christ to become vulnerable on the cross to free us from our sins. Vulnerablity can bring blessings and God can use those times to grow us, strengthen us, and free us. During times of personal vulnerability, don’t run from God. Embrace Him!
© 2014 – 2015, Andrea Thorpe. All rights reserved.