One Sunday morning, Hannah comes to me. Her hesitance gives me a hint that there’s something weighing her down. She asks me if she can take the day off from church and just stay home to watch the live webcast. She explains that the previous weeks where they had series of assessments in school had stressed her out and triggered her panic attacks. I agree to her request to rest at home for Sabbath but I probe her deeper about this recurring problem.
She had confided this to me many months back, how she had begun to experience a kind of nervousness, and that when she Googled her symptoms, she learned she had panic attacks. I can’t be sure if what she experiences are panic attacks. I haven’t seen her act “nervous” except that she would adamantly refuse to do something she had decided not to do, like participating in piano recital last summer and refusing to go up to Youth Choir in Church. She’s already 14, but she’s still in Children’s Choir.
Hannah grew up painfully shy. Too shy that it crippled her to do even the things she would have loved to do, like joining in games in birthday parties. When we went to birthday parties when she was a little girl, she would just watch teary-eyed as other kids won prizes in games. She wanted to get those prizes, too, but she was too paralyzed by fear to make the few steps to the front. In pre-school, she memorized and practiced speeches for special events, but when the day came, she wouldn’t even dare step on the stage, let alone open her mouth to speak. She would clam up and no one could make her perform. This happened not only once or twice and it really broke my heart.
I believe that she inherited that shyness from me. It was the same for me growing up. But when I began attending school, I bravely faced my fears to be able to compete with other kids. And so, I performed in both academics and extra-curricular activities, and I performed well. But for my Hannah, although she was a good student and performed well in exams, she avoided reciting as much as possible all through grade school.
Years passed and tons of prayers lifted up and we saw our Hannah performing at the Meralco Theater for her piano recital. It was nothing short of a miracle! With the Lord’s love and mercy, my girl was finally able to perform in front of a huge crowd. For three consecutive years, she conquered both her fears and the stage. We were so proud of her triumphs.
Also, now that she is in Junior High, she’s learning to be more active and participative in school activities. She has also developed friendships with a handful of her girl classmates and has learned to become social, going out with them every now and then. (But that is after I have peppered her with the details :). I don’t fail to remind her to let her light shine especially when she’s with her friends).
But apparently, she has never really shed off her timidity completely. And now, has it developed into panic attacks?
Having grown up in Church, Hannah is not your regular teenager. She doesn’t follow the ways of the world unlike most of her secular peers. I can see her doing her best to obey the Bible’s teachings. But mothers can never be complacent. I still probed her what her faults might be, why she was having those panic attacks. I had begun to pray for her incessantly the first time she confided in me. I thought they were gone. I sent her emails, discussing verses from the Bible that I hoped would help her. This time, I pointed out some of her shortcomings that she needed to work on.
I reminded her that we had not received the spirit of fear but of love, power, and a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7). If she coddles those panic attacks, what kind of spirit is dwelling in her heart? I asked her. But even as I said those things, I was well aware of my own situation. I’m not a stranger to fears, nervousness, anxiety and panic attacks. I know I had accumulated them in my system because of my terrifying illness and suffering. As I had mentioned in a previous post, even if you’re a Christian doing your best to live victorious, prolonged suffering could still be traumatic. And so, I know how excruciatingly hard it is to battle fears.
I grieve both for my daughter and myself as we walk this same path, although I always keep a brave and courageous front. I believe that’s what mothers do. And even though I have my own ailing body to think about and now added to that are my daughter’s issues, I feel comforted by the fact that I can heap everything at my Lord Jesus’ feet in prayer. And more unceasing prayers at that! Even so, I won’t be discouraged, for it cannot be that He won’t listen to them.
But let’s go back to the subject as to why Christians suffer. The Bible tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ came to give us abundant life (see John 10:10). But for many of His present-day followers, the opposite is true: they live being robbed of health, strength, courage, peace, joy, and prosperity by the enemy. They are oppressed both by fears and physical suffering. Why, if Apostle Peter has written thus?
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Pet. 3-4 ESV)
Why do many of us tarry long in the wilderness and can’t seem to arrive at our Promised Lands, that place of abundant life the Lord has promised? There is just one way to that place and we know it’s Him. But we already have Him. We can say that we abide in Him and His Word abides in us. We do our best to obey Him, yes. What else must be done? These and more are questions I still wring my heart hard to try to find answers to.
What aren’t we surrendering?
The first time this question popped up in my mind, tears threatened to rise up my throat as I felt the magnitude of God’s requirements it carried. The question is loaded, like a camel saddled with burdens and clouds pregnant with rainstorm. Yet, it’s important to try to answer it for it will determine how we will live our lives on earth.
What aren’t we surrendering? God wants our all.
The fullness of our love?
Pride of life?
Have we made an idol of our careers? Our pursuits? Our possessions? Our selves?
Where are we disobeying?
Maybe that piece of unsurrender in our hearts is the same space the enemy has taken up. His foothold. And that is what hinders our abundant life? That’s why Apostle Paul warns: Do not give the devil a foothold (Eph. 4:27).
God has given us His precious and very great promise — the Holy Spirit. It is through Him that we can partake of the divine nature. It is through Him that we can escape the corruption of the world because of evil desires. It is Him who empowers us to live godly lives. This then should be our daily goal: To ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Let us prepare our hearts everyday to be His sanctuary.
(Photo credit: Perla Frisberg).
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Journey with Jesus,