It was 3am and I woke up with my heart pounding. A feeling that I can only describe as terror flooded over me. But I wasn’t fearing anything. I wasn’t under stress. I wasn’t going through any problems. There wasn’t even any unhappiness about anything. Panic! I was having a nocturnal panic attack for no apparent reason! Well, I say no “apparent” reason because there WAS a reason I didn’t realize right away, one that produced very real physical symptoms. There were spiritual reasons for panic attacks and anxiety plaguing my nights. Read on to learn more about how I defeated them, and the enemy!
A Nocturnal Panic Attack Out of Nowhere
As I said, it was just a sense of panic and it was over nothing!
My heart raced like I had just run a mile and yet I had been sound asleep. This was the third time this week this had happened, and only the second series of episodes in my life.
I had my first nocturnal panic attack and it was completely un-triggered. I woke up with chest pain, shortness of breath and all the textbook symptoms of unexpected panic attacks. But yet I could not explain it at all! It just mysteriously showed up one night.
I have suffered with anxiety for several years. Now, I am sure it has been longer that anxiety had built up but it has reared its head just in the last several.
I had gone through a time in a previous marriage where I went through so much worry, so much stress, so much fear on a seemingly daily basis that now my body didn’t know how to exist without it.
My brain started to LOOK for something to worry about and would produce those feelings even when it found nothing. I was at peace in my life now but my body hadn’t yet caught up. It still felt plagued by this anxiety. Not fear, not panic, but anxiety.
You see, for some of us with general anxiety, our brains are overactive in looking for something to worry about. Mine works overtime because it’s been so used to it for so long that it seems to crave it. It literally hadn’t learned yet how to exist without it.
Now here I was, just after starting my blog, having panic attacks in the middle of the night out of nowhere.Here I was, just after starting my blog, having panic attacks in the middle of the night out of nowhere Click To Tweet
A Christian With Anxiety and Panic Attacks??
I had never spoken openly about having anxiety in the past. I felt like, as a Christian, admitting having anxiety was like admitting a lack of faith. After all, doesn’t the Bible say,
But in the King James version it says,
In the Strongs Exhaustive Concordance, the word here “careful” in Greek is ‘merimnaō’ and means: Worry, be concerned – take thought, anxiety
Nocturnal Panic Attack – Panic and General Anxiety vs Worry
These words in scripture are more about worry or concern and an anxiety that comes from worry about tomorrow for instance or the outcome of a particular situation or series of situations. We all experience that from time to time. We experience that kind of anxiety when we have a job interview, must speak in public, get married, etc. But what I was dealing with here, after reading that verse, was not that kind of anxiety.
This was a real, physical reaction to absolutely NOTHING!
There was no worry, there was no concern, and I felt like where I had no worry or concern there could not possibly be a lack of faith, right? I just had a very real physical response to nothing. In fact, during these panic attacks when I would wake up with a racing heart, I was sound asleep, dreaming peacefully!
I struggled with this for days because I feared (yes, here IS where concern and worry kicked in) that this was going to be an ongoing addition to my already problematic general anxiety and that I was developing a panic disorder.
I worried (yes, THERE was the kind of worry the Bible speaks of) I was going to keep having these episodes at night. I was worried that I was going to keep getting worse. I worried about my health and wondered at times if I was exhibiting signs of a heart attack! I mean I AM over 50! I was envisioning these trips to the emergency room in the middle of the night and that I was having some sort of mental breakdown!
Then I started to imagine things that could be wrong with me. It just began to snowball!
Was I in the pre-stages of a heart attack? After all, I would wake up with these heart palpitations and deep breathing! Maybe my physical body was giving me these different ways of displaying a deeper medical problem.
Or maybe this was the early stages of more serious mental health conditions. Would I start developing different types of anxiety disorders?
You see, the enemy latched on to these nocturnal panic attacks and began filling my head with all kinds of imaginings! What started off as a simple panic attack turned into heart disease in my mind and oh so much more!
As I said, I started to have the anxiety the Bible DOES refer to! I started to worry about this until it developed into extreme anxiety so much so that it consumed me!
“Be anxious for nothing!“
Then I heard those words over and over in my mind calming me. It was like something (or someone rather) wanted me to feel condemnation for this attack that I had no control over and God was there with His Word comforting me.
You see, I had quickly crossed the threshold from HAVING anxiety to BEING anxious about this self-created medical condition I MIGHT have.
I was imagining!
Were There Spiritual Reasons for Panic Attacks?
I was creating problems where they didn’t exist and that was causing more anxiety. For a period of 3 days it became a never-ending cycle. Those with anxiety, you know exactly what I am talking about.
It is normal for people with anxiety to expect the worst because your mind and body are already in preparation for it! You end up in a cycle of chronic worry!
But I kept hearing it….
“Be anxious for nothing…“
I kept feeling that I was failing God. I WAS now having feelings of anxiety! I, for a few days, lived in constant fear. Was my faith wavering? Was I disappointing Him?
Well, the enemy tries to manipulate us through making us feel like we are failing in our walk!
He tries to make us feel condemnation. He tries to make us feel like we are missing the mark. And he tries to make us despair, lose hope. Lose FAITH!The enemy tries to manipulate us through making us feel like we are failing in our walk! Click To Tweet
My Panic Attack Was Just That! An Attack!
You see, God gave me a revelation one day that week. The first step was recognizing the words “panic ATTACK”.
I had just started my blog. I was opening up to people and sharing my everyday life as I am now, something I was not comfortable doing.
My blog was encouraging people. I was hopefully leading people to a closer relationship with God by stepping out of my comfort zone and stepping IN faith.
And now, during the night, during a time when I needed my rest most because I am not a good sleeper anyway, I was being attacked. These nocturnal panic attacks were spiritual attacks as well! But not exactly the panic attack itself!
It was more the thoughts that went through my mind afterwards. This dark night of the soul pervaded my daytime hours too, so much so that I couldn’t even write.
The attacks were more about me questioning whether or not there’s something wrong with my physical health! As I said, I thought maybe I am having a heart attack! They were about questioning my spiritual health! Maybe I am not good enough for God to use if I can’t even get a victory over worry! Those were the attack!
Being focused on this IMAGINED threat to my health kept me from being focused on doing what God wanted which was sharing my spiritual journey and changing people’s lives.
2 Corinthians 10:4-5
Casting down IMAGINATIONS!
You see, I am not saying that all panic attacks are attacks of the enemy. That’s absolutely not the case! I want to make that VERY clear. Panic attacks ARE real!
Don’t feel that if you go through these that you are under attack. This is a very real condition for people and if you are experiencing them and have not sought counseling for them, please do. The one thing I want to be sure you understand is that anxiety and panic disorder does not make you spiritual deficient in any way. It does not mean you lack faith or are even under attack.
I am simply speaking of my OWN situation.
I am saying for ME, lying there at night when I had NEVER experienced anything like this in my 50 years, I just KNEW this WAS a spiritual attack because of the thoughts the enemy was placing in me afterwards!
He was making me feel like I couldn’t possibly serve God if I was going through this.
So, I started to do what the Bible says to do…
Submitting to God
Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil and put on the armor of God…..
When you step into what God has for you and when you start to align yourself with God’s will, the enemy gets in a fit. His greatest pride is when he can get a Christian to start living with negative thoughts and stop living in God’s will for them. I have often heard the saying,
“If you are not running headfirst into the enemy, be careful! You might just be heading in the same direction.” ~Unknown
So I submitted myself to God and prayed and let Him lead me. I gave Him my worries and my fears! I took every thought captive.
2 Corinthians 10:5 says:
Was I successful ALL the time? No! But I tried, and I continue to try because it is an ongoing battle!
I knew I was just to keep going, not give up what I was doing with my blog. But I had to let Him lead and He could only lead when I was submitting it all to Him. I prayed…a lot…and asked for prayer from others. I buried myself in the Word. I prayed the Word. And I put on my armor!
I realized I had been so focused on the DOING for God, I had lapsed in just being in His presence where I am revived, refreshed and renewed. I had been doing so much FOR Him and my ministry, that I fell out of that space of spending time WITH Him.
I moved into a period of intense prayer and focusing solely on Him and His presence and the nighttime panic attacks never happened to me again. I have not had one since. Not a single one.
I won’t say I haven’t had anxiety attacks that affected me even at night but I am able to tell when those happen, but I have not had those full blown panic attacks.
When we get so busy DOING for God that we lose the time we spend WITH Him, we can let our guard down.
We can leave a crack in the door and a clink on the armor for the enemy to come in and attack us where we are weakest. We can become full of ourselves by thinking we are so BUSY for God.
My anxiety was an open door for the enemy.
We have weapons of warfare, we CAN resist the enemy, but we need to submit to God first.
I now know that I cannot do what I am doing here without making sure I go to sit at His feet each day. I know that once I stop doing that then I am just doing works and not having relationship. And in doing so, I am taking Him out of what I am doing and I am going rogue!!
So make sure you make time to just BE! Just BE in His presence. Just BE in His Word.
NASB – “Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation“