Seized by Panic

“Seized by Panic,” Ensign, Jan. 1990, 66–67

Seized by Panic

“Small Boy Killed by Dogs.” The headline caught my eye as soon as I picked up the newspaper. Suddenly there it was again—that wild fear beyond reason penetrating me like poison. It came with greater and greater frequency and intensity these days, grinding away at the very roots of my sanity.

This is ridiculous, I told myself. I didn’t even know the child. But logic was of no avail. My heart went right on pounding, my throat was dry, and my palms were moist. I was experiencing all the symptoms of a deep emotional trauma, yet nothing had even happened to me. Sympathy for people suffering tragedy was one thing; my present overreaction was in a different category altogether.

It was not normal, I recognized, to be seized by this kind of panic at the misfortune of somebody else, and I had to deal with it soon if it was not to incapacitate me. I was reaching the point where I could no longer enjoy my children. Still, I was powerless to stop the waves of terror that struck me afresh each time I read a newspaper, every time someone mentioned an act of violence.

My fears were so personal that I was embarrassed even to bring myself to discuss them with my husband, though they gnawed at me night and day. I was afraid of kidnappers; I was afraid of rapists. I was afraid of riots, revolution, anarchy, earthquakes, and floods.

Surely, I reasoned further, the Lord didn’t intend for me to suffer such extreme anxiety. There had to be a means of escape, and the only escape could be the Savior. He had always been the anchor of my life, and so I redoubled my faith and prayers for release from my agony. I would feel better for a short time … until the world with all its terrors overwhelmed me once more and I was reduced to a mass of quivering nerves again.

“Give me the strength I need,” I pleaded one day. “Point the way to that ‘peace which passeth understanding.’”

“This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” were the words which leaped into my mind. Fasting! So that was the answer. I felt impressed to turn to the New Testament. In Mark 9:14–29, I read again the account of the father who brought his son to Jesus after the disciples could not cast the evil spirit out of him:

“When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.

“And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead.

“But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.

“And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out?

“And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:25–29.)

Now I knew that I was being tormented by evil spirits trying to destroy me through fear, especially through fear for the welfare of my children, an area in which I was particularly vulnerable.

I began my fast. The next day was Sunday. I continued to fast through church services, where I sat with my ten-month-old daughter bouncing on my knee. As the meeting progressed, I felt more and more comfort from the Spirit. When we sang the closing hymn, the song seemed to have been chosen just for me. It spoke of God’s love, his constant care, his watchful eye, his unchanging goodness. Every word sank deep into my consciousness. The Spirit was inviting me through the words of the hymn to cast my burden at the Lord’s feet and trust in him to take care of me and my family. God bears all nature in his hands; surely he would guard his children well, came the message.

I began to sense a blessed relief. My burden was lifted and the evil influence was dispelled as I felt the warmth of the Spirit around me.

Never before had I experienced such an overwhelming assurance of God’s protecting care. The manifestation could not have been more all-encompassing if I had seen a vision. I felt the fire of the Spirit from head to toe. Truly, “this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”

As soon as we arrived home from church services, my husband asked, “Why are you so happy today?” The change was that dramatic. I thought at first that I would have to fast every week in order to preserve my newfound peace, but such has not been the case. The baby daughter who bounced on my knee that day is now twenty-two years old, and the Lord’s peace still fills my soul.

Illustrated by Cindy Spencer