From a young age I have had a fear of forever. Not forever as in, “I’ll love you forever,” because who doesn’t want that? I mean forever as a timeline. Which is crazy because as a Christian, our great hope is to live forever with the Holy Trinity in heaven, right? I remember briefly being scared of going to hell and maybe that was the gateway to this fear.
At this point, I consider this to be, as Paul said, a thorn in my flesh. Every once in awhile I’ll be overcome with this fear, going through multiple panic attacks over a span of days, and each time the only thing I can do is utter, “Jesus help me. Father, I need you,” as I try to even out my breathing and find my ground again. Eventually Satan gives up, the attacks stop, and I can function normally again.
When I first started having these anxiety attacks, I was met with understanding. Of course someone as young as I was, about ten or eleven, would have questions and fears over this unknown. As I grew older and the fear didn’t end, I was met with less and less understanding. At one point I was even told to “Move past it”. Trust me, I’ve tried. I don’t like having to deal with these attacks any more than people like to hear about it. When I was about fifteen, maybe sixteen, our pastor at the time found out about it. He had declared he would be reading out of Revelations and I must’ve confessed that I avoided reading that particular book of the Bible because it often triggered a panic attack. I was relieved to take over the nursery that night. However, our church took place in our house and the back room that served as a nursery shared a wall with the room where our main services were held. Throughout the night, I could hear the pastor’s voice rise and fall though I don’t think I was ever able to actually make out his words. Either that or I somehow managed to tune them out by focusing on the children. Afterwards I learned that he had been shouting his message to the point that his wife even tried to quiet him down. He refused, apparently intent on trying to make me hear his message.
Eventually I stopped talking about the attacks, getting through them in silence. The irony of this fear has never escaped me and I have often thought that I had to be the only Christian that struggled with this fear. That is until I learned that my husband is attacked by the same fear. We deal with it a bit differently, though. Whereas I do my best to ignore it, knowing that even speaking about it can trigger attacks, he gets through it best by talking about it. Still it is nice to know that I can speak about this fear and find understanding instead of bafflement. Since then we have met only one other person, one other fellow Christian, who suffers with it, too.
I don’t know why I am attacked this way. If Satan’s scheme is to distance me from God by it then his plan has seriously backfired. When the world drops out from underneath me, when I can’t breathe because panic grips me so hard I think I might throw it up, when I become blind to everything else but that one glaring fear that’s lit up like a red neon sign, then I cleave to Jesus even harder. In those moments, I have no strength of my own to fight and must instead rely upon God’s. He has promised us that His strength is most effective in our weakest times. When I cannot fight on my own, God stands before me, in front of me, guarding me, and fights for me.
I know that on the other side of forever, when I am finally in God’s presence in heaven, this fear will be no more. Until then, I will suffer as Paul suffered with his thorn, knowing that while I hate it and would wish it gone, I let it draw me to the Father instead of away from Him. I pray against it. I hope to one day be free of it. Until that day, I will cleave to Jesus knowing His strength will see me through.
If there’s a thorn in your own life, I hope you know that God fights for you. He does not cause it, but sometimes He allows it. I hope that instead of blaming God for it, you instead let it push you toward Him. I hope and pray that you know and allow God’s presence to grant you peace from whatever it is in your life that causes you pain. You may feel weak and unable to fight, to get through, but God’s strength is sufficient in all things. God has never lost a fight, He won’t lose against the thing attacking your life either. You can run to Him and find the shelter you need to weather the storm.
My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness.2 Corinthians 12:9 ampc