The Most Real
By Anthony Casperson
A whole lotta factors caused the moment. A sudden change of daily schedule. Dwelling on negative thoughts. Lack of sleep. Stress from what others needed of me. Stress from failing to get done the things I wanted to do. Stress from uncontrollable chaos. Not to mention the rising temperature at the time.
I felt the panic attack coming. And something needed to be done before it became a detriment to me. Or others.
Early on in my time dealing with these moments, I learned a few tactics to keep them at bay. One is to remind myself that I am safe and secure. The attack is largely an unneeded trigger of the fight of flight response kicking into the latter of those two options with an extreme extent. So, taking a moment to consider the lack of an actual threat can help.
But a second tactic has a better track record for me. This one in particular is grounding myself in reality. Focusing on something around me at the moment with as many of the physical senses as possible. For me, sensing something odd or imperfect or that suddenly shifts to another sensation is helpful. The sharpness of a corner on a piece of furniture. A rough surface. Unique fabric. Or, the most helpful to me, something very much colder than my surroundings.
This focus on reality helps because it moves the mind away from perceived or imagined insecurities and toward something present and real.
During this specific moment of my recent history, a sudden thought came to my mind. This object between my fingers exists because of God’s act of creation. Without him, it wouldn’t be here. Its molecules sprang forth as a result of his creative imagination. Like all things he spoke into existence.
So, in a sense, God is more real than any other aspect of reality. He’s the only thing that would be real, without his act of creation. And he’s near all we who follow Jesus.
I thought about the grounding technique and how sensing/considering God might just be helpful. Therefore, I brought his aspects to mind. His supremacy and great power. His methods, so unlike humanity’s. The previous times he brought me through difficult moments.
And that made me contemplate the safety and security we followers of Jesus have in him. Not necessarily safety from danger, but rather through any danger. Even if the difficulty goes beyond perceived or imaginary, he is with us. It’s better than merely taking a moment to prove to ourselves that there’s nothing to fear or panic about. Because the danger could be real and we’d still be in the same situation of safety in his presence and reality.
The contemplations calmed the moment. And I didn’t feel like I had to convince myself of safety, because I felt it automatically.
It took me a little longer to realize something else about the thoughts that came to me in that moment. I’d seen this God-focused tactic of dealing with panic and fear before.
Quite a number of psalms, especially from David, follow this same consideration of God while in the midst of troubles. The psalmist lays out their fears and then sets their mind on God. His previous actions. His goodness. His glory.
I’ve seen too often these psalms used to call us to just trust God. As if the act of trusting automatically causes God to move in our desired manner. But we’re not promised that. Not by these psalms, nor the rest of the bible. He’ll do what’s best for his glory and our growth, but that doesn’t guarantee deliverance.
However, what these psalms do show us is that the best thing we can do while in the midst of any difficulty of life is to consider God. The most real thing that is always near us.
So, the next time trouble and stress coalesce into panic, let’s join the psalmists in using our spiritual senses to ground us in the security of God.