Panic Attack or the voice of God?

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Before I understood what was going on, I was confused and exasperated. Very exasperated. Why would God always say ‘No’ to whatever I wanted to do? If I wanted to go to school, he would say no. If I wanted to learn a skill, he would say no. Everywhere I turned, I was sure to get a ‘no’ from him, sooner or later.

The bigger problem was that he seemed never to give another direction; he always waited until when I’d made a decision about something, then he would just come in and say, ‘no’, leaving me confused, and wishing he could just visibly appear to me and tell me CLEARLY all he wanted me to do, and not only wait for me to make a decision so he can come in and cancel it.

The ‘no’ was usually in the form of pangs in the gut when I thought of the thing I intended to do, weak limbs or a racing heart in the middle of the night that would wake me up. All the feelings could be present in one instance or there could be just one or two in another case. They always resulted in me becoming less enthusiastic about the project in question. And if I let go of the thing I intended to do, then I’d be okay, symptom-free.

I always took that to be the voice of God, until after so many times of this occurrence, spanning several years, I began to suspect it was not. God is a loving Father. His leading is clear and gentle, not the symptoms described above that left me confused and emotionally drained. God would not always say no, and never, yes.

But if this was not God’s voice, then what was it? I didn’t have a name for it. I didn’t know what it was.  I could describe the symptoms but I could not tell what I was suffering from.

One morning, I asked the Lord, forcefully, to help me understand what it was. It was hard even admitting that it was not his voice, but I had to ignore the feelings and by faith talk to my Father about the condition. I asked him to help me understand about the ‘pangs’ or ‘flutter’ in my stomach each time I made a decision about something.

The answer was instant, and it was this blog post. The author describes almost exactly what I was going through, even using the same word, exasperated. From the comments on the post, I realized it was somewhat of a common problem.

It was great knowing those feelings were not God saying no. Over the years, I have come to understand some about the condition called panic attack. It has something to do with the fear of man, the fear of man’s negative opinion and disapproval, and the fear of the unknown. Someone who has suffered from low self-esteem, much self-consciousness and a desire to have the approval of men in order of have any self-worth is a likely candidate. And a sometimes, it’s a pure demonic attack coming through condemnatory thoughts that make you begin to have some sort of misgiving about God’s leading.

I have mostly experienced the latter in my journey of trying to follow God’s plan for my life. Had I not discovered earlier that there is a difference between panic attack and God truly saying no through a check in my spirit, the devil would have succeeded to derail me from the path God wants me to walk in.

God sometimes says no to our plans and desires. Because he loves us and seeks to prevent us from making bad decisions and choices, he does intervene and stop us from proceeding in a wrong path. But his no is different from panic attacks. In cases where his Word does not clearly guide, he communicates his will in that particular case to our spirits. It could be a check in our hearts that makes us want to reconsider the intended plan, a ‘something’ within that makes us NO LONGER WANT to do what we intended to do before, or it could be a waning of the excitement we had initially. When we say yes to the check or the ‘something’ and let go of our plans, there is joy and peace in our spirits, not confusion and exasperation.

If you’ve experienced panic attacks and God’s leading through a no in your spirit, you know there’s a big difference between the lack of peace that comes from fearing the opinion of man or the unknown, and the lack of peace that results from your spirit grieving over a wrong decision or choice, or wrong course you about to take.

I don’t know if have articulated the explanation well. I just thought to bring to someone’s attention that there’s a difference between panic attack and the voice of God. To bring to someone’s attention that they might be entertaining as God’s voice something that is not. This is especially important when you have a sincere desire to walk in step with God, where you do not want to do something he does not sanction. Panic attacks and the devil can keep you grounded, confused and exasperated at what you consider God’s dealing, when it actually is not.

If you do not understand that there are conditions that can mimic the voice of God, which panic attack in decision making is an excellent example, you may experience frustration and exasperation like I did. God is a Father, and he does not exasperate his children. He guides us. He does so primarily through his written word, and in situations where his word doesn’t clearly show a path to follow, he still makes us understand what he would want of us in that particular situation. And when he does, we experience true peace within. Even in situation where he would say no, and keep you waiting without an immediate clearer option, you’d experience peace, if your mind is stayed on him.

If your heart loves the Lord, and your mind is stayed on him, any leading that leaves you exasperated is not from God. If you do not feel true relief, joy and peace when letting go of something you had planned to do, then doubt if the leading to let go is truly of God.

A word about overcoming panic attack.

I’m just talking here from my personal experience, what worked for me.

I decided to face the fear and the source of the attack. From adolescence, I suffered from the fear of man. I was so self-conscious that the thought of having someone have a negative opinion of me was unpleasant. I can’t say I have completely overcome; but I have witnessed tremendous improvement. But the thing that brought the victory, after I realized it was not God always saying no to my decisions, was a decision to face the source of the fear and to make a firm decision to damn the consequences, be it the displeasure of man or fear of the unknown, and just do what God wants me to do.

Facing fear or the source of fear is no pleasant job, but it helps to reveal that the greatest fear is fear itself, and not what is feared. To me that caused less and less ‘pangs’ in my stomach when I made a decision and stuck with it. As long I can differentiate the fear from a check in my spirit, I choose to face the fear.

About satan using condemnation to cause thoughts of fear and confusion, feelings which can sometimes cause you to doubt God, one of my friends recently gave me a strategy that works superbly. This year, out of the blues, I received an attack that was more than anything I’d experience in a long time. For several days I was under heavy condemnation and feelings of inadequacy. I knew it was not God speaking those thoughts into my mind. It was the devil.

It was so bad that I got panic attacks in the night. Thank God I knew better than to conclude God was saying anything to me through those feelings. I rebuked the devil, I countered the thoughts, but they just persisted. I then complained to some very dear friends, and they gave me a simple strategy. Just ignore the condemnation. And stand. Simple, isn’t it?

So I just ignored and stuck with what God had instructed me to do. That left the devil with nothing to successfully fight against me. He did all the talking, telling me what a jerk I was, and when I did not agree with his report, when I did not respond in fear or withdrawal from the path God wants me to go in, he got ashamed and began to shut up.

It may be ridiculous that anybody should consider a panic attack as the  voice of God, but I used to think so. Maybe someone out there  still does. That is the reason for this post. I pray God uses my example to explain it better to someone who might be experiencing what I went through.

God bless,

Jane