Anxiety. Panic attacks. Fear. These are traumatic lifestyle choices that only people who don’t know or follow God experience.
I have to admit, that’s what I would’ve said, too, if I hadn’t experienced them all myself.
I don’t recall a time when I didn’t know Jesus and didn’t claim Him as my personal Lord and Savior. But, as I entered my college years, anxiety, panic attacks, and fear became my constant companions. And while it has certainly been a great adventure of following the Lord through the years since, it assuredly is not for the faint of heart. Victory has been achieved, not all at once, but over time and at ever deepening levels.
The physical element of anxiety and fear was the most crucial and immediate to deal with, although in many ways the easiest and fastest. When a panic attack would come on, it seemed as if I lost control of my body. My heart would race and flutter, my breathing would be shallow, and my thoughts would run away with me. Often it felt as if I might be having a heart attack. I remember that it was very difficult to think at all, but especially logically. My thoughts would jump from one thing to another, and each scenario was worse than the first. This involved the spiritual side as well, as we know that spiritual and physical are intertwined.
I stood condemned by the very Scripture that I kept trying to turn to for hope.
At night I couldn’t sleep, I was consumed by thoughts of failure and certain doom. I experienced great condemnation for not being able to live out what I knew the Scripture said. It was as if the very Scripture that is meant to give life and hope was turned against me. All of the Scripture that I learned as a child was used against me in a very calculating way. I stood condemned by the very Scripture that I kept trying to turn to for hope. So, I didn’t read much Scripture during that time, but I slept with my Bible under my pillow, and spent hours just repeating Jesus’ name. Eventually I would fall asleep.
The only place that I could sleep in total peace was in church. I was working at a church daycare at the time, and rather than eat on lunch breaks, I would go into the sanctuary, lay down on a pew, and fall fast asleep with no racing thoughts. I went to church on Wednesday nights, climbed into the unused balcony and laid down. Before the first song was over, I was in a deep sleep. I awoke only at the end of service. My days became a fog as I walked around with a constant barrage of negative thoughts that I couldn’t combat. There seemed to be no way out.
Finally, in desperation, I begged God to show me a way out. I bargained with Him. I told Him that I would do anything He asked, and go anywhere He asked, even Africa, if He would just deliver me from my torment. At that moment, I sensed His still quiet voice speaking to me for the first time that I could recognize. I felt that that was all He had been waiting for, surrender. He promised me that I would never suffer from the terrifying physical effects of a panic attack again, and I never did. From that moment on He spoke to me personally and regularly, gradually teaching me to trust Him.
An example of this was, whereas once I could read a textbook and remember what I read almost verbatim, at that point I couldn’t retain information I read from the beginning to the end of a paragraph. It was so scary, but my brain was too distracted and scattered. As my panic rose, and the very real fear of failing my test grew, I sensed the Holy Spirit speak to me. He told me to just read it and leave the retaining to Him.
I also sensed Him saying that I would do better with His help than I had ever done relying on my own ability. So I read the required material, certain that I had retained nothing. The next day I dragged my feet on the way to class, convinced I would fail the test. After the test I was still pretty sure that I had performed poorly. When I received my score, though, I had received 104%. I had gotten every question right plus the bonus questions.
But, He had kept His word.
I remember being quite angry at God then, as I felt He had made a fool of me. Here I had told everyone that I was going to fail! But, He had kept His word. I continued to receive straight A’s, working with what seemed like half a brain, and with half of my usual study time. Although I never again experienced the heart palpitations or the shortness of breath of a panic attack, the battle for my mind continued. I would have times where the battle waned and I got a breather, only to enter a new intense battle.
The first major victory, though, was a complete deliverance from the physical element of panic attacks, as I first relinquished full control and made Jesus not only Savior, but Lord. The second was learning through experience that my God was trustworthy, and that He was there to help me, whatever I might face. These both occurred during my sophomore year of college, and were the first steps to being led to the mission field.
Surrendered Healing is ENTRY FOUR of our May series, Holding Onto Hope. Join us next week for the second section of Karla's bare-all testimony about Surrendered Healing.
Karla (Isom) Ford has been involved in full-time ministry since 1993. Following an internship with Teen Mania, Karla served in Russia for 22 years, first with Book of Hope, then as a Missionary Associate, eventually becoming generally appointed as a missionary with the Assemblies of God in 1999. "God answered my prayers and sent (my husband) Kirk to me in 2007." The couple married in January 2009, and he joined Karla in Russia. "Pioneering ministry in Siberia, much of the time with only nationals for colleagues, and usually operating way beyond my natural abilities, really influenced the way I view and do ministry." Her greatest passion is mentoring and helping people discover their calling and talents. Kirk and Karla are currently in the process of adopting two toddlers while also raising funds for new ministry opportunities in Spain. "With toddlers now in the home, there isn't much free time to be had, but I love to read and spend time with friends and family." To learn more about Kirk and Karla Ford's next endeavor, visit their site at www.nexusministries.org.