Committing to counseling is not easy. Even after the mental hurdle of deciding to get counseling is cleared, many other obstacles might stand in our way. Some people will struggle with navigating insurance coverage and funding, while others can be held up by pride and fear. Those were true for me, along with an immense fear of the unknown. I was trapped in an unconquered monstrous fortress that was surrounded by craggy cliffs and serpent-infested waters—a stronghold whose name was Death.
I was taken by surprise the first time a friend suggested I was depressed and encouraged me to get counseling. I was ignorant about depression and the depths of despair it can bring, but God used my trusted friend to gently guide me towards Christian counseling. The battle for my mind had commenced.
It was no easy skirmish as I was being taught about the importance of endurance and deep dependence on God. Each counseling visit was accompanied by stomach aches, dry mouth, heart palpitations, and more. Eventually, I told my counselor that I was struggling to keep the appointments. He helped me to recognize that I was in a battle for my mind and that the primary weapons used against me were lies. Phrases like No one cares about me, I’m such a burden, or even words from others I had internalized, like Why are you so sensitive? had free reign in my mind because I had no training on how to sort through them. The negative thought patterns, coupled with a passive and avoidant mind, ushered in the emergence of physical symptoms such as panic, anxiety, and agoraphobia, which is a fear of public places.
With caring, gentle instruction, my brain was retrained to employ Scripture as my primary weapon. One of the most effective was 2 Corinthians 10:3-4, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” God’s words taught me that He was in ultimate control, and that I needed to measure my thoughts and feelings against Scripture.
My mind might tell me that everything is out of control and that I should be afraid, but that is not what God’s word teaches. In fact, Paul reinforces this when he tells Timothy, “For God did not give us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV). Can you hear the boom of those words smashing into the stronghold of death?
I had my first panic attack thirty years ago. After much counseling, prayer, and practice, God has retrained my brain and given me much peace. That doesn’t mean that I never experience an occasional bout of fear; but when it does come, I am equipped and ready for the battle. Because Jesus, our Messiah, has dealt with death once and for all.
Revel with me in this: “Since therefore the children [of God] share in flesh and blood, [Jesus] himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14). That was my life: a slave to fear trapped in a fortress of death. Because of my fear, every ache, pain, and unknown situation inspired terror in me. I was a Christian, but I had never been trained to catch my thinking. Once this had been revealed, I was able to depend on the truths of Scripture and use them to counteract the lies in my mind. The truth was—and is—that Jesus, by submitting himself to death on a cross for all of mankind, gave the stronghold of death its final blow. The craggy cliffs and serpent filled moats are no more. I am free, and you can be too.