Her comment came when I wasn’t expecting it. The criticism was dropping into the conversation as if it belonged there, like a burglar demanding a seat at the family dinner table.
The actual comment didn’t immediately throw me off. What I didn’t realize, however, was that I allowed it to crack open a door that had no place even being unlocked, let alone open.
It wasn’t until an hour later, when I got into my car to drive home, that the effects had become systemic. The comment was taken hostage by the enemy, who used it as a targeted attack on me. The moment my brain opened the door to that attack, lies began coursing through my veins, much the same way injected drugs operate.
The anxiety bomb dropped and I fell victim to its devastation.
You screwed up.
You said all the wrong things.
You made them hate you.
You won’t get another chance.
You ruined it.
Those lies radiated through my soul. I believed them. I couldn’t stop believing them. And over the next few hours, my body reacted in the way it’s supposed to when attacked, which means the “acute stress response” checked into high gear.*
Executive functioning (reasoning and rational thought!) shut down. My heart rate and breathing increased. My GI system began to evacuate itself. Survival mode took over.*
In essence, the bomb decimated my ability to think clearly, to recognize the lies for what they were—attacks of the enemy on my soul. So I whispered desperations into the night.
What if it’s true?
What if I’m an utter, colossal failure?
Where do I go from here?
What hope is there?
Bombs like this don’t always knock me out. Sometimes they miss their intended target completely, so much so I’m not even aware of their presence. Other times the shot comes close but my community fights back with me. And then there are the times when it looks to be a perfect take-down, but my Creator and his arsenal defend me.
This particular recovery came through a friend calling out the lies, redirecting me to truth. Only then could I even begin to appreciate the tools at my disposal.
The lies I believedTasha Layton, Look What You’ve Done
They got some roots that run deep
I let ’em take a hold of my life
I let ’em take control of my life
Praise & Prayer, Rinse & Repeat
I have a friend who is working on a book about singing (it’s awesome, so trust me when I say I’ll let you know when it’s published). He told me the Bible talks about singing hundreds of time and commands us to sing almost as many times as we are told not to fear (which is a lot). Our Creator knows exactly what we are up against and what does he suggest we do as a result? SING?!
But that’s definitely not what I want to do in the aftermath of an anxiety bombing. And yet, my friend (who is also a pastor) says he actually prescribes daily singing to people struggling like this.
Is it any wonder, then, that the writer of Hebrews calls us to offer a “sacrifice of praise” (13:15)? Maybe when we don’t feel like it… that is exactly when we need to sing.
My heart needs a surgeonMatt Mahar, Run to the Father
My soul needs a friend
So I’ll run to the Father again and again
In the fifth chapter of Ephesians, Paul tells us how to make the best use of our time, given what we are up against, including: be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart (5:19).
Pastor Tom Olson explains it this way: “the more you think about this, it makes total sense: What posture must be more hated by the evil one than the posture of a believer who is singing? I can’t think of many stances you can take that identifies you with Christ and against Satan more than eyes, heart, mind, and voice lifted to heaven in song!”
You are a promise keeperHope Darst, Promise Keeper
Your word will never fail
My heart can trust you, Jesus
I won’t be overwhelmed
My eyes are gonna see
Miracles and victories
And so this is why sometimes when all I want to do is sink into my bed for more doom-scrolling or TV-escaping, I take my friend’s advice and force myself to turn on praise music instead. Then, standing a few feet from my TV to keep my focus, I stare at the scrolling lyrics until I can bring myself to sing along.
I choose to worshipRend Collective, I Choose to Worship
I choose to bow
Though there’s pain in the offering, I lay it down
Here in the conflict
When doubt surrounds
Though my soul is unraveling I choose You now
Remember that racing heart rate and breathing? Singing actually requires us to stabilize our breathing, which can bring that heart rate in check, and releases feed-good hormones.**
It’s amazing what 15 minutes of my eyes, heart, mind, and voice lifted to heaven in song can do to redirect my thoughts and actions. And when done regularly—even as a sacrifice—it is exactly what I need.
You go before I knowRita Springer, Defender
That You’ve gone to win my war
You come back with the head of my enemy
You come back and You call it my victory
All I did was praise
All I did was worship
Hallelujah, You have saved me
So much better Your Way
Stay tuned for part two of this post, where I dig a bit deeper into the cause of anxiety bombs like this.
*The fight, flight, or freeze response is the activation of our stress defense system. Here are some other common tips for taming this.
**Science hails the benefits of singing as well—frequently referencing how it releases feel-good hormones. This is from an article I found on BBC.com: “When we sing, large parts of our brain “light up” with activity, says Sarah Wilson, a clinical neuropsychologist and head of the School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne.” Later in the article, Wilson argues that singing is “fundamental to our biological makeup.”
Encourage and discuss here