“You’re breathing just fine,” the nurse told me. “You’re just panicking.”
I heard this consolation so many times over the course of eighteen months that I just couldn’t stand to hear it again. I had been battling with severe allergies, and often I found myself in the doctor’s office or emergency room, wheezing and breathless, frantically trying to communicate that I couldn’t breathe. But time and time again, friends, family members, and even the doctors told me that I wasn’t having trouble breathing; I was just panicking.
Now, I quickly differed in my opinion. I simply couldn’t take in enough air. I do admit that my weakened breathing often led to a panicked response. In the times when I started to wheeze and found each breath to be a struggle, I could feel the panic rise to the surface of my mind. I had to get some air, and when I couldn’t find relief, I began to hyperventilate.
It took a long time before the doctors finally found the right course of medication to start me on the road to recovery. I also moved to a new residence to avoid some of the potent allergens, and eventually, I found that I was turning a corner toward better health. I no longer had to struggle to breathe, and the panic symptoms no longer rose to the surface.
In the months that followed, I found I could use my breathing struggles as a standard of sorts. In the times when I became stressed, frustrated, or scared over some of the most insignificant things, I remembered how I had come through a great battle with my allergies, and then my momentary struggles didn’t seem quite so difficult. My allergies brought perspective to some of the ways in which I panicked in the face of fear.
In Unglued, Lysa TerKeurst recounts how she found perspective in a panic moment of her own, and I found myself relating in many ways. In one day, Lysa’s computer and cell phone both completely crashed, and it wasn’t long before her dog had an accident all over the carpet. Now, I don’t have a pet at home, but I do resonate with the frustration that comes with technology.
In April of last year, I was preparing to give a concert at my church to celebrate graduating with my Master’s degree. My friend Lisa was helping me get ready that evening, and we decided to take our last few moments before the concert to read a devotional online, hoping that I would be able to find some calm in the face of my nervousness toward the evening’s events.
Instead of calm, however, I found complete and utter panic! I had just accessed the website for the devotional when my computer went crazy! Instead of a nice, calming devotional, a program imitating an inti-virus software opened up on the screen. I instantly knew this was a virus, so I frantically tried to close out of the unwelcome site. But my computer was frozen on that terrible page, and I watched as this malicious software claimed to scan my computer for supposed threats. I screamed and yelled at the offending program, and I found that I was quickly becoming unglued. This couldn’t be happening! Everything that mattered to me was on that computer— my writing, music, school papers. I had dealt with computer viruses before, and I knew that there was a huge chance of losing everything; it had happened before.
My friend Lisa quickly ran to my side and assessed the situation. She clicked on this link and that link, trying to get the program to shut down. As she tried to troubleshoot, she remained calm, asking me questions about what had happened leading up to the virus taking over. By this time, I was far from calm and crying hysterically. It was then that Lisa turned around in my desk chair and prayed out loud. She asked that Satan would no longer have a hold on the situation at that moment, and as if in response to the spoken name of Jesus, the malicious program shut down.
I was still shaking when Lisa and I came together in a long hug. I had let something as simple as a virused computer take control of this all-important day. I was almost certain that Satan had tried to gain the upper hand in destroying my sense of calm before this important evening, and for a moment, it had appeared that he had won the battle. But in the end, it was God who had won the war.
A few months later, my computer hard drive crashed. You might be thinking that I became completely unraveled in that moment, but that isn’t true. The experience with the virus on my computer months earlier had prepared me to see a computer for what it was— only a machine. So when my computer wouldn’t start up that morning, I calmly walked over to the phone and called a friend who would know what to do. Although I ended up having to get a new computer, I didn’t panic over all I had lost in terms of documents and files. Instead, I considered the idea that my computer crashing really didn’t matter in the scheme of things. It was actually a blessing to get a new computer because I was able to start over. Ten years from now, I don’t think I will remember the computer virus or the hard drive crashing. Instead, I will remember how I learned about perspective and what truly matters in life.