I spoke at a women’s retreat this past weekend and during the lunch break I had a crazy experience.
I almost died.
Dramatic, I know, but here's the story. It’s a short one. I tried to swallow a piece of fajita meat and it lodged in my throat. Right there. At the table. I couldn’t get it to go down or come back up. It just sat there, filling up my airspace. Within seconds, panic was welling up inside of me. Two women saw me and immediately got up to help, but at that moment I finally coughed hard enough to make it come flying out.
Ten seconds of fear.
It doesn’t sound like much. But around the eighth second I wasn’t sure it was going to end well and I didn’t know I only had two more seconds to go. When you’re living in the moment, the eighth second can be a turning point for your sanity.
I played it off. Nervous chuckles were exchanged and we resumed eating (me not so much). But on the inside, I was shaken. That afternoon, after I got home, I couldn’t stop replaying the experience. And before I knew it, I had a panic attack.
Unfortunately, I have a history of anxiety and panic attacks are not new to me. But they are a thing of the past. I haven’t had one in years! But the more I kept reliving those ten seconds, the more I could feel panic washing over me like a wave.
But here is the interesting thing… Four hours before the panic attack and two hours before I choked, I spoke on how there is an enemy in our world intentionally trying to steal, kill and destroy our lives (John 10:10). I boldly challenged the women to say no to his tactics and learn to live differently. Fear does not own us. Yet there I was, hours later, crippled by fear.
Now, I’m assuming most folks would have responded in similar fashion to choking. So, I’m going to cut myself some slack for freaking out. But herein lies a greater struggle for me:
Fear. The everyday, run-of-the-mill variety.
I get scared easily. It doesn’t take much for me to worry and I have an overactive imagination that errs on the side of doom and gloom. (Think: Chicken Little mixed with a touch of Eeyore.) Not a great combo. I may look calm on the outside, but, more often than not, there is a battle waging on the inside. I find myself assessing and sizing up situations in an attempt to eliminate whatever I am fearing.
And I have a long list of fears! Ranging from back pain to parental failure to having metal fly through the windshield while I am driving (yes, someone told me once of a metal pipe flying off a truck bed and crashing through the windshield, leaving the driver with permanent, massive facial damage.)
Now, fighting fear soon after I spoke doesn’t negate what I taught. The truth is, fear is not going to let up just because I know I don’t have to succumb to it. And for me, I tend to battle fear regularly. Daily. Sometimes hourly. So everything I believe and teach has to be regularly, daily and sometimes hourly applied. And here is what I have to do:
Make God’s voice louder.
Fear can roar and it reverberates. And if it’s the most prominent voice in your life, you will cower to it. So you have to elevate God’s voice above it. My favorite strategy is to sit in my backyard first thing in the morning. I hear the rumble of trucks and car doors closing. But I also hear a variety of birds calling out. Squirrels scrambling up trees and leaves rustling in the wind. The longer I sit, the louder creation becomes. And the louder creation becomes, the more aware I am of my Creator.
We have to get quiet in order to hear His voice. But when we do, it doesn’t compare to the volume of fear. What was screaming at you is now a whisper from behind. When I can’t get to my backyard, I use a favorite scripture (Psalm 91:1-2), listen to a worship song or just get on my knees and beg for Him to drown out the deafening sounds. And it never fails. When I intentionally quiet my heart to hear His voice, fear fades into a dull, white noise.
We may not be able to silence fear in our lives, but we can definitely turn the volume down. What voice are you listening to today?
Do you have a loud voice in your life? Take time to quiet your heart and make His voice louder. (I recommend sitting outside if you can!)
Know someone struggling with fear?
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