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My Antidote to Panic Attacks: Worship

Written By Rachel Moreland, USA

I’ll never forget the first time I had a panic attack. It was in my second year of university and I was doing what any normal 19-year-old American girl would do on a Thursday evening—buying a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream at the local supermarket.

It hit me as I was scanning the freezers. As a surge of adrenaline rushed throughout my body, I had to stop and catch my breath. My fingertips began to tingle. My palms and feet started to go numb. The room started to turn. “What’s happening to me?”

My heart started to beat a thousand times a minute. My legs began to feel weak, and I felt as though I would collapse at any moment. Gasping for air, I leant against a freezer door. “Deep breaths, Rachel. Breathe in and out. In and out. Just breathe.”

Next thing I knew, I was sitting on the floor of aisle 9 with my back against the freezer doors, framed by tubs of Haagen Daz ice-cream and berry-red popsicles. Hysterical, curled into a ball, and with tears streaming down my face, I must have looked a pitiful sight.

“What’s happening to me?” I cried. My knees were pushed into my chest, my head was bowed, and my shoulders rose and fell with every sob. “What is going on?”

With every second that ticked by, I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins, shooting up and down my arms like an electric shock. Like waves on a seashore, the first wave swept through, then drew back for a moment—giving a sheer second of relief—only to be swallowed up by another pounding wave of dread.

At that moment, I felt a tap on my shoulder. “Are you okay, dear?” The voice of an older woman broke into my whirlwind of chaos. With bloodshot eyes and mascara running down my cheeks, I looked back at a woman in her mid-50s. Holding a box of Cheerios in one hand and a bottle of Windex cleaner in the other, she was looking at me with a concerned expression on her face.  “Are you okay, dear? Can I help you?” she asked again. “No, I’m not okay.” I replied with a muffled voice, “I don’t think I’m okay.”

What I said next was one of the most important declarations I had ever made. It was the turning point. “But I haven’t told anyone that yet. I need to tell someone. I think something’s wrong. Really wrong.”

Since the age of 19, I have suffered from anxiety. I’m one of the millions of people who struggle with this mental health disorder. In college, while other 20-somethings were busy worrying about what to wear out on a Friday night, I would retreat to my dorm room googling my latest symptoms and thinking that I had some form of cancer (stage III, most likely). Otherwise, I would be frantically checking my phone every two seconds to see if my friend had replied to my message. “Of course she won’t. She’s seen the real me. And she’s decided I’m not worth it.”

Now, at 26 years old, I want so badly to declare that I have conquered all this stuff, that I have overcome all the complexities of this disorder. I wish I could say that my anxiety is a thing of the past, that it is no longer knocking on my door to wake me up in the morning or leaning over my bed to watch as I toss and turn at night. But I haven’t conquered it, and it’s not a thing of the past.

Perhaps the most discouraging thing about anxiety is dealing with it as a Christian. In many parts of evangelical America, admitting you have anxiety is kind of like admitting you have a problem with alcohol. Or drugs. Or one-night stands. Or eating a Big Mac in your dorm room at 2.a.m. It’s a sinful “habit” and it will sweep you to the margins, out of sight and out of mind of middle-class American churchgoers.

Or at least, this is how some churches have often made me feel. A deep and all-consuming guilt was all packaged, gift wrapped and hand-delivered to me each and every morning I stepped inside a church building. And while I don’t believe for a second that the church will ever be perfect, I had expected a more loving and accepting response than the ones that I had received.

Since that humiliating incident in the supermarket, I have been navigating my identity as a Christian with anxiety. I have had to embark on the painfully slow process of finding that “thing” that brings me rest and respite from the isolation and exhaustion that comes from anxiety.

Worship, I have discovered, is that special space where I open up to the Father and receive His peace—the kind of supernatural peace that Paul talks about in Philippians 4. Here’s why worship has become my antidote to moments of anxiety.

1. Worship is a peaceful state of mind

Worship is a state of mind, not just a supernatural high on Sunday mornings. Initially, I saw Sunday worship sessions as the only time I could receive God’s peace. However, I realized that worship isn’t just meant for large gatherings or small group settings. Worshipping the Father is a constant state of mind, an ever-present mindfulness of His goodness and grace in my life. Practicing a heart of worship—whether praying during my work commute or listening to a Bethel music playlist as I clean my apartment—has been an integral part of my healing journey from anxiety.

 

2. Worship is a safe space

Getting a handle on my anxiety has meant that I’ve needed to get real with God. And that means getting up close and personal, divulging all of my doubts and secrets to Him like you would to your bestie over a cup of coffee. Creating a safe space where I can speak to the Father has been an instrumental part of my road to recovery—particularly picking up my guitar and singing Scriptures over myself and my family. I believe that there is power in declaring words of life to change the mess in our lives. Worship is a powerful weapon against worry.

 

3. Worship paves a direct path to God

I love the quote by American author John Paul Jackson: “Peace is the potting soil of revelation.” I find that it is often in those moments of fear, that the channel of communication between me and God is most fuzzy. But I also know that it’s in those moments when I feel at my weakest, that worship ought to be the next bullet-point on my to-do list. Setting aside space for God to speak to us in the midst of fear is a powerful step to leaving our anxiety at the door. It is in those “thin places” where we hear from and speak to God, that faith takes authority over fear.

 

I want to be careful here, as I don’t want for a second to portray to you that I have this all figured out. Navigating anxiety can at times feel nearly impossible. More often than not, it feels like treading water in the deep end of the pool—when you have never taken a single swimming lesson in your life. And there is no one around to throw you a life jacket the minute you start to go under.

God has so much more in store for us than a daily battle with fear. I pray that as we cultivate a lifestyle of worship, we may find ourselves free from the chains of anxiety that have kept us from stepping into the thing that God has called us to do.

Does My Worship Please God?

Written by Jesse Schmidt, Canada

I am easily distracted by just about anything. In some cases, the distraction is temporary and does not really affect whatever I am doing. But then I’ve realized that this bad habit is manifesting itself when I am in the midst of the very thing I don’t want to be distracted from—when I am worshipping God during church service.

This often happens when I focus on the externals of such gatherings—say, when I am at a church that conducts a concert-style of praise (think bright lights, loud music, and a lot of flair). Although I may be singing along or even clapping to the beat, my mind tends to be filled with negative and critical feelings about the way the service is being conducted. My focus ends up not on the Lord, but on the things around me.

The more I’ve mulled over why I get so easily distracted during such times, the more I’ve started thinking about the act of worshipping itself. What, exactly, do we mean by “worship”?

Worship, according to Oxford Dictionaries, is to “show reverence and adoration for (a deity)”. We worship God with our entire lives. In John 4:23-24, Jesus explains that we ought to worship God in spirit and in truth, and that those who do so are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.

Have I fallen short of this definition of worship—especially when I am singing songs of praise in church? What does worshipping in spirit and in truth mean in such a context? How do we know if our worship is pleasing to God?

Worship God in Spirit

Worshipping in spirit means to worship with all of our hearts. Our worship to God, whether it is in singing songs of praise or in our everyday lives, has to come out of hearts that have a genuine passion and love for Him. Without this, our actions and words will be empty.

That means that whether I’m singing by myself in a small room or if I’m in a congregation, I ought to be able to praise God all the same. When we’re focused on God, external factors—how we feel or what circumstances we’re going through in life—will not affect how we praise Him. I ought to still be able to praise Him when I’m having a bad day or when things seem to go wrong.

One good example that never fails to inspire me is that of Paul and Silas when they were praying and singing hymns in prison (Acts 16:24-25). Even in their small prison cells and in their circumstances of tribulation and persecution, the two were able to praise God with all of their hearts. They were able to do so because their hearts truly desired and loved God.

May our hearts be like that of Paul and Silas. May we be able to learn how to sing to God regardless of our circumstances and environments.

Worship God in Truth

Worshipping God in truth is to adore Him for who He is. Jesus says that “[He is] the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). In other words, we need to understand God’s character and acknowledge who He is.

It is impossible for me to develop a strong attachment and affection for someone if I don’t know that person well. I can’t speak of how good God is (let alone sing praises and worship Him) if I don’t know Him personally and intimately. We simply can’t love and worship God if we know Him only through what others say He is like; we need to know Him for ourselves.

Praising God and singing to Him without a proper understanding of His truth and character can therefore lead to an empty expression fuelled by hype and good feelings. I can sing loudly in church and know all the songs by heart—but not have an intimate relationship with God. But that is not what God desires.

Ultimately, to worship God in spirit and in truth—to grow a heart that is passionate for God and to know His character—we need to spend time with Him. By reading the Bible regularly, setting aside time to pray and growing our relationship with Him, we will naturally also grow in our worship of Him. We have to know Him to love Him, and we have to love Him to desire to worship Him and show His worth in our lives.

ODJ: 5W1H-Worship 101

5W1H. What’s that? Students of journalism are familiar with the “Five Ws and One H” method of fact gathering. This approach is also known as the Kipling Method, because of the poem Rudyard Kipling wrote that opens with these words:

I keep six honest serving-men;

They taught me all I knew;

Their names are What and Why and When

And How and Where and Who.

At the close of the book of Psalms are five worship songs that answer the 5W1H questions. Known as Hallelujah psalms, each begins and ends with “Praise the Lord” or the Hebrew Hallelujah. Psalm 150 contains these answers to the 5W1H questions:

Where do we worship? God is to be worshiped wherever He may be found, “in his sanctuary”, both here and in heaven (v.1).

What do we praise God for? “His mighty works” (v.2). Everything that He did is worthy of our praise, for He did these things for us.

When do we praise Him? Every time He acts is an occasion for praise (v.2).

Why do we worship Him? Because of “his unequaled greatness!” (v.2). We praise God for what He does; for who He is.

Who is to praise God? Every creature, “everything that breathes” (v.6) is to worship the Creator God.

How do we worship Him? With joyous singing, accompanied by orchestral wind, stringed and percussion instruments. Even dancing makes the list! (vv.3-6).

Every line of Psalm 150 is a resounding call to praise God. He deserves the full and passionate expression of our affection and devotion. May all our worship today honor and bless our amazing, loving God!

—K. T. Sim

365-day plan: Matthew 15:32-16:12

July 21, 2016 

READ: Psalm 150:1-6 


Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! (96:4). 

5W1H. What’s that? Students of journalism are familiar with the “Five Ws and One H” method of fact gathering. This approach is also known as the Kipling Method, because of the poem Rudyard Kipling wrote that opens with these words:

I keep six honest serving-men;

They taught me all I knew;

Their names are What and Why and When

And How and Where and Who.

At the close of the book of Psalms are five worship songs that answer the 5W1H questions. Known as Hallelujah psalms, each begins and ends with “Praise the Lord” or the Hebrew Hallelujah. Psalm 150 contains these answers to the 5W1H questions:

Where do we worship? God is to be worshipped wherever He may be found, “in his sanctuary”, both here and in heaven (v.1).

What do we praise God for? “His mighty works” (v.2). Everything that He did is worthy of our praise, for He did these things for us.

When do we praise Him? Every time He acts is an occasion for praise (v.2).

Why do we worship Him? Because of “his unequalled greatness!” (v.2). We praise God for what He does; for who He is.

Who is to praise God? Every creature, “everything that breathes” (v.6) is to worship the Creator God.

How do we worship Him? With joyous singing, accompanied by orchestral wind, stringed and percussion instruments. Even dancing makes the list! (vv.3-6).

Every line of Psalm 150 is a resounding call to praise God. He deserves the full and passionate expression of our affection and devotion. May all our worship today honour and bless our amazing, loving God!

—K. T. Sim

365-day plan: Matthew 15:32-16:12

MORE
Read Psalm 146 and apply 5W1H to this song as you worship God. 
NEXT
What can you praise God for today? Why is He alone worthy of our worship? 

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What If There Was No Church?

Title: What If There Was No Church?
Materials: Illustration and Digital paint
Description: What if the building we called church were to be torn down by the authorities or destroyed by nature? What if there were no more “church” organizations? What if there were no more leaders to organized regular services or no preachers who wanted to teach? What would you do?

 

01-What-if-there-was-no-church

God wants us to worship Him both as individuals and as a community. Why? Because “we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:5). This description of Christ’s followers would be meaningless if we were to worship God as individuals.

 

02-What-if-there-was-no-church

You could read as many commentaries and Bible study guides as you can, but you’ll soon find yourself asking for help to understand God’s Word better, and for guidance on how to apply it in your life.

 

03-What-if-there-was-no-church

The Christian journey includes trials, tribulations, and challenges, which makes it a hard one to walk alone. There are times when we need that fellow human voice, comforting hug, or listening ear, to help us through the hardest times and remind us that we are not alone.

 

04-What-if-there-was-no-church

Unless you’re a hermit or rabidly anti-social, you will need the companionship of friends. Not just for the bad times, but for the good times too.

 

05-What-if-there-was-no-church

A gathering of some kind would welcome this new believer, introducing him to the rest of the body of Christ and showing him that he was really joining a corporate body of members who believed in the same God and who would give him encouragement and strength for the days ahead.