I woke up at 3:15 this morning in a panic. A nagging pain in my side, coupled with some other minor health issues over the past couple days, triggered anxiety-inducing memories of some medical emergencies I’ve had over the last few years. I tried my go-to coping strategies but was struggling with an inconvenient middle-of-the-night panic attack.
I’ve noticed that the one thing that always makes a panic attack worse is the prospect of someone finding out about it in the moment. I can talk about it all day long after the fact, but anxiety produces in me a need to shrink and hide away until it passes. In the moment, I feel mortified at the thought of someone else discovering that I’m having a panic attack. I didn’t want to wake up my husband.
I prayed and prayed those child-like prayers that are familiar to desperate people: “Helphelphelphelp, please help, helphelphelp, where are You?” It’s so hard to find God in the haze of anxiety.
Finally in frustration and desperation, I prayed, “I can’t get to You, so I need You to come to me.” I thought of God incarnate, descending from heaven to come to us in the form of Jesus, inhabiting a human body, the Creator condescending to become the created. I was comforted when I thought, from a place deep in my spirit, “That is what God does.”
I felt my spirit settle and was able to sense God speaking to me simply and soothingly, as a mother talks to her distressed child. Then, peace.
Pain, and suffering of all kinds, is so isolating. When we are hurting and alone, dipping down into a place where no one else can go with us, we find Emmanuel. In this place, we begin to understand the miracle and absolute necessity of God with us. When we are spiraling into pain, despair, anxiety, anger, or grief, and we can’t get to God, God comes to us. The few times in the Bible when God is in a hurry are when God is coming quickly to be with God’s beloved.
If you are hurting and feel like you can’t get to God from the depths of your pain, may God come swiftly and bring you peace.