A strategy to overcome panic and fear

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 1:3

Yesterday I had my second “eyes to thighs” scan in follow-up to my radioactive iodine therapy last weekend.  It was scheduled to provide a “benchmark” for any future scans. 

I went into this scan with some trepidation because of what happened on my first scan.  But at the same time, because of the valuable faith principle I had relearned, I relished a chance to do it again.  My hope was to sail through this scan with flying colors while resting in God’s love.

My first scan was a week ago before the radioactive treatment and caught me off guard in how unnerving it was.  I have had both a CT scan and an MRI before.  Typically I am not claustrophobic and even spending twenty minutes in an MRI machine (which is a tube of 3.5 to 4.5 feet in diameter) did not bother me.  But this test nearly freaked me out.

When I reported in at the hospital imaging center last Thursday I was invited to lay down on my back on a long narrow concave shaped table barely wider than my body.   The table’s only variation was at the shoulders where there was an extension on the right side of approximately 18 inches where I could rest my right arm if I desired.  Otherwise my arms had to either rest on my stomach or be extended and tucked up next to my body at my side.  They told me the scan would take 30 minutes of which approximately 20 minutes would be my head and neck area.

Then a large 30 inch square flat-faced “camera” was lowered to within a hair’s breath of my nose.  I don’t know what all happened, but my initial reaction staring at that thing sitting right on top of me triggered a feeling of claustrophobic panic.  I quickly closed my eyes and began to pray.  The very thought of enduring more than a minute of this had me on the edge of crying out to the technician to get it off me!

Thankfully from past experience I knew enough about dealing with fear and panic to immediately begin to battle it by confessing scripture promises while seeking to use my imagination to refocus my thoughts on positive things.  “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” I repeated over and over.  (Psalm 27:1)  And while doing that I imagined myself lying on a Caribbean beach looking up a beautiful blue sky with puffy white clouds drifting overhead and a cool ocean breeze blowing across my face. 

Little by little I fought my way back from the precipice of panic and came into a place of peace.  I was able to maintain that for what seemed like 15 to 20 minutes. 

But then, and this was stupid on my part, I opened my eyes again to see if the infernal camera had moved far enough down my body to give me some daylight.  To my surprise it hadn’t moved at all!  Instantly I closed my eyes, but panic already had it’s grip on me! 

But this time I was not at the precipice of panic, I was dangling over its edge.  All I could see was oppressive, claustrophobic darkness.  What if I prayed for the trapped Chilean miners?  That didn’t help.  It only got worse.  Now I was trapped with them.  I had to battle my way back to the beach, but my mind was entangled by tentacles of fear.  It was like hacking my way through a dense, dark jungle.  But finally I broke through!  And as I stumbled into the warm sun and onto the wave-washed sand I determined I would never open my eyes again.  No siree Bobby!

The principle that the first scan deeply impressed upon me is simply this.  One of the keys to faith versus fear, has to do with what we train our eyes to focus upon.  The quintessential verse on faith out of Hebrews quoted at the outset emphasizes that faith has much to do with how we use our imagination to see what we cannot see in the natural.  Our imagination can cancel what we do see in the natural while at the same time pulling what we can’t see into the present.  It then becomes the substance of our reality.  And that can make a God-sized difference!

And so yesterday at my second scan, I determined that I would close my eyes the minute I got on the table and would not open them until the scan was over.  In so doing I began from the outset to not allow a negative focus to even enter into my reality.  Instead I had a pleasant morning resting on the beach, sunning myself in God’s love and feeling the cool breeze of the Holy Spirit upon my face.  It was glorious!

I left the hospital refreshed and rejoicing in the Lord at His goodness.  What a difference focused faith can make in our lives!  All glory to God!

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