(My church is publishing their own small group material which includes short devotionals from congregants. I was asked to write a reflection on the topic ‘who is in control.’ This reflects a personal experience from my grad school days.)
Psalm 55:16-17, 22 – But I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice…Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.
I was 30,000 feet in the air, boxed into an airplane window-seat, when I had the first panic attack of my life. Suddenly, my heart started pounding against my chest, my feet and hands went numb and I felt faint. I thought I was having a heart attack. My mind was screaming to call the flight attendant and ask for a doctor or an emergency landing. I was so desperate to get to solid ground that I even thought about opening a door and jumping out of the plane. I was trapped in that plane, frozen to my seat with fear, for the next three hours. Never had I felt so out of control.
My life had been spiraling downward for months, ever since I began experiencing persistent nausea, dizziness and fatigue. I went to my doctor several times as my symptoms increased. She thought I was depressed, but I knew there was something physically wrong with me. My symptoms grew worse until I struggled with debilitating vertigo. My anxiety over my health eventually led a series of panic attacks spread over several months.
Being constantly sick, helpless and fearing the unknown – possibly death – left me emotionally drained. I knew everyday that I had no control over my life. There was nothing I could do but follow the example of Psalm 55 and call out to God. Curled up in bed each night, I would recite Psalm 23:4 over and over, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” I clung to the promise of Psalm 121, “my help comes from the Lord.” Speaking and praying the goodness and promises of God sustained me while I waited for help, which God provided through a new and attentive doctor. Physically healing, I learned how to diffuse my anxiety and avoid panic. When I look back at that time of helplessness, I rejoice in both my return to health and the proof that God – the only one who is in control – is my salvation in every circumstance.
Challenge for today: Get a piece of paper and your Bible. Label the paper He Will Sustain Me. Look through your Bible and record references for passages and verses that will sustain you through difficulty. Look for the promises God makes to his people. Write down examples of God’s good character. Fold it up and keep it in your Bible. Next time you are worried, pull out your list and pray the promises of God.