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anxiety attack

Somewhere around 2010 I woke up in the middle of the night thinking I was having a heart attack. My loving (but sometimes stubborn and very direct) wife told me I was having an anxiety attack and I should relax and go back to sleep. I couldn’t, and was constantly fixated on all the things I thought were wrong with me to the point of feeling tightness in my chest and more anxiety. She refused to wake our then 2-year-old son and told me to drive myself to the ER. I did. I checked out fine.

We laugh about it now as an example of her great compassion (insert emoji here) but there’s a truth she knew, because she was in tune with what I’d been fixating on all day and then into the night: I wasn’t having a heart attack, I was having an anxiety attack.

If you’ve ever had an episode of anxiety which could be described as an “attack” you may be familiar with this concept of how fixating on certain things can lead to physical manifestations of something that’s not actually there. It’s serious and I’m not downplaying any of us who’ve been through it. But the science is pretty clear: it’s mostly in our heads. And it is severely aggravated by fixating on things that make us worry – especially things out of our control.

It brings me to this principle: if fixating on the wrong things can create anxiety that produces physical symptoms, can fixating on the right things bring peace and health? For me, the answer is a resounding, “yes.” 

My friend Mike Patz said it this way: “The things we meditate on, we will magnify. And what we magnify will control us.” This principle applies broadly to life, and especially here. Whatever we give the most time, energy and focus to, that is the thing which will ultimately most influence our lives. 

Anxiety is hard. Many of us are feeling it in this moment – we all have at some point if we’re honest. But I want to invite you to give God a real shot. This week, spend more time than you ever have in prayer, reading of scripture and other life-giving books, worship and loving community. Spend less time than you have for a while on social media, reading news and thinking about your problems. When the primary object of our attention becomes the loving and compassionate God of the universe, I have found from deep experience that we can experience true peace that sinks into our souls and changes us. And who doesn’t want that?

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Joel

Joel Searby

A healthy and united America is truly possible… and it starts with us. John Kingston draws on wisdom from history, science, faith and culture, along with his own experiences, to offer eight principles for discovering purpose, meaning and true community.

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