Tag Archives: panic attacks

What To Remember When You Walk Through Suffering

There are people who say that God never wants His children to suffer, that He only wants “blessing” for us and that suffering is never His instrument for this blessing. This, however, is a lie and if you believe it, you will spend much of your life in despair.

You see, suffering is not the opposite of blessing. The Apostle Peter writes…

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.  1 Peter 3:13, 14 (ESV)

My junior year in college was literally the worst year of my life. By the end of fall semester that year I was put on academic probation, and it felt like everything was falling apart…and I was a Christian. I had struggled with OCD and panic attacks, and my mom and dad didn’t know what to do. They wanted to help but had no real idea how to do so.

But God was doing a work in my life – I went into that year a proud young man.  And by the end of the year, like Nebuchadnezzar after his insanity, I was deeply humbled, a different person, no longer thinking so highly of myself.  And even more than that, God was doing something in my father’s life.  I had been praying for his salvation since I had come to Christ 3 or 4 years before, and toward the end of my junior year, my dad, age 63, became a Christian. His words as I remember: “Son, I told you if I ever did this you would be the first to know, and today I asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life.”

Later I asked him what led him to finally bow his knee to the Lord. And he said, at least partly in reference to what had been going on with me: “I just didn’t have the answers.”

In other words, hindsight has shown me that God was doing glorious things through the pain I was experiencing.  He was making me more like Jesus, and he was showing Don Knowlton that he needed Christ.  My dad is in heaven today at least partly because of the painful trial I went through that year.

The Lord works suffering out for our good, even if we bring it on ourselves. Romans 8:28 is our rock in this – God causes all things to work together for good to those who are called according to His purpose.  Now Peter is going to go on to say, far better that you suffer for doing right than that you suffer for doing wrong, but the point is this:  in God’s economy, suffering is often the instrument of blessing, not the opposite.

If you don’t understand this, whenever you suffer you will be in despair and unable to rejoice like the Biblical writers tell us to – because you won’t be able to connect the suffering with the often unknown good that God is doing. And He is always doing good for those He loves, even through suffering.

For Friday, November 13th: 1 Peter 4


Posted by on November 12, 2015 in Uncategorized


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How Prayer Delivered Me From Panic Attacks

The following is an excerpt from my book on prayer. I’m picking up after the personal story of how I came to have my first panic attack:

For you who are blessedly uniformed, the panic attack was different than any fear I had ever experienced, not just normal anxiety intensified. Of course, I had dealt with “normal” fear many times: pre-test anxiety, first day of school anxiety, will-she-like-me anxiety, dodge ball last-pick anxiety, and of course, first date anxiety. Earlier in life, I had wrestled with strange fears on top of the standard ones. Driving along an expressway as a small boy with a friend and his dad, we saw to our horror a conflagration at a roadside gas station – an errant car having careened into a pump. Not surprisingly, I developed a fear of gas stations and dreaded when Mom and Dad needed to fill up. Then there were financial institutions – I suppose resulting from seeing more than my share of robberies on TV, I dreaded going into banks with my parents for fear of face-masked bad guys with automatic weapons. You might have called me a person with a tendency toward anxiety.

But the panic attack was in a class by itself – waves of intense fear washing over me in spasms of awfulness. It would come, stay for a few intense minutes, and then pass. It was like a horrific monster lurking in my closet, but worse, because just thinking about the monster was enough to open the closet door. In the aftermath of an episode, I would wonder when and if the panic attack was coming back. These fearful musings would inevitably result in another attack; I imagined myself trapped for life.

“Do not be afraid of sudden terror,” came the counsel of Solomon (Proverbs 3:25 ESV), but how would I stop fearing my fear?

Trying Out An Idea

I did have one idea. I had learned two verses from the Navigator’s Topical Memory system that seemed to have a bearing on what I was going through. Maybe…just maybe the promise of Philippians 4:6, 7 would meet my need:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6, 7 (ESV)

That last bit sounded pretty good – I needed the peace of God which would surpass all understanding, and I needed a guarded heart from future attacks. Was prayer somehow the answer? There was only one way to find out. When the attacks had come previously, I had tried to “think” my way out of it. “I don’t need to be afraid.” “God is with me.” “Nothing bad is going to happen.” etc. If fear came from irrationality, then surely I could rationalize myself out of it. Unfortunately, this mental reasoning never had much effect; it may have even made things worse. But maybe…prayer? I didn’t have much to lose, and when the next attack came, I began to talk to God.

Frantic Prayer

Specifically, I began to offer requests, or supplications…but not for myself. For whatever reason, I had interpreted “supplication” in the verse to be prayer for others, so as the waves of fear washed over me, I lifted up in prayer anyone I could think of. Mom, Dad, high school friends, college chums, my new friend Laura, people I had just met that day at work. Anyone and everyone – a phone book would have served me well. And it wasn’t a half-hearted kind of praying – no, it matched my mood – I prayed frantically and fervently. My rapid fire requests must have sounded quite desperate in heaven, like a condemned prisoner begging for…everyone else’s life.

And as I prayed, something wonderful began to happen: the panic began to subside…until it was gone. And then the quiet. The Peace. And then, once again…the what if? What if it comes again? What if prayer worked the first time but won’t take care of it again? Always that kind of thinking had brought it on again. And sure enough, the fear came again, but I could tell something was different – it was lessened in intensity.

Once again, I prayed fervently for others, and once again, the attack went away, but more quickly this time. And then, the thought again – what if it comes back? Well, what if it does? I had a plan now. And indeed, when it came one last time, now a mere 98 lb. weakling of a panic attack, the power of prayer kicked sand in its face and sent it scurrying from the beach for the last time.

I was free.

When I told my story to a Christian acquaintance some years later, he made a comment about my prayer being just another kind of behavior/thought modification – in other words, that my rescue had nothing to do with God and everything to do with modern psychology. I suppose he can believe what he wants. I just know that God’s word has never let me down.

And Paul told the Philippians that the peace of God comes…as a result of prayer.


For Monday, August 10th: Colossians 1



Posted by on August 7, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Panic Attacks and The Power of Prayer

In the summer of 1985, I began to experience sudden attacks of fear which were absolutely overwhelming and debilitating. It was literally the worst thing I had ever been through, and I didn’t know what to do.

The attacks would come in waves, stay for a few minutes and then dissipate. In their absence, I would begin to fear having another attack which inevitably would bring one on.  It was most horrible.

But I had an idea.  There was a verse I had memorized from Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  It said,

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NASB)

So I made a plan – the next time I got an attack, I would begin to pray like crazy.  I decided not to pray for myself, but for others, largely because that was my understanding of “supplication”, that it was to pray for others.  Now, today I wouldn’t necessarily say that this verse is only referring to prayer for others, but that’s the way I applied it back then.

The next attack came.  I started praying, a bit like a madman, lifting up anyone I could think of…and then before too long, it was gone.  But then the thought came – what if it comes again?  And it did, so I went to prayer “battle stations” again, praying like crazy for anyone and everyone I could think of.  And the peace came…again.

I think I might have had one more attack after that, coming in very weak intensity, but then the problem was solved.  Some months later, the thought of a panic attack seemed to almost bring one on, but by this time I was ready – I began to pray and I don’t think it really got any traction.

Lessons?  Well, if you struggle with panic attacks, I guess my application is obvious: turn to the Lord in prayer.  There are, of course, other ways you can seek help and it might be wise to look to someone who is an expert in these matters and who will bring God’s word to bear also. Godly people have been helped by medication in dealing with issues like this.  But, that said, the Bible is absolutely true, and prayer will always be the greatest key to peace.


Posted by on February 7, 2012 in Uncategorized


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