Author: Kate Franken
I couldn’t breathe. Every muscle tensed. My face turned hot and clammy. I could see myself driving off the bridge. I wanted to slam the brakes and runaway. And then, in my head, I saw all the cars hitting me from behind.
I wrestled against what I felt, despite its intensity, and steered myself off to the side of the highway, once I gradually made it over the bridge. And there I sat paralyzed with fear, trying to breathe. I eventually pushed myself back out onto the highway, knowing people were expecting me. I drove with trepidation, fearful of another panic attack.
This moment is so vivid for me, the feelings of having no control pulsed strong. It, among other panic attacks, sit locked in my memory, ready to haunt me whenever I drive bridges, busy highways, and always the freeway.
When this anxiety first surfaced a little over two years ago, I immediately tried to make sense of it. I however couldn’t make sense of it on my own. I didn’t understand people that had panic attacks. I didn’t understand how I could go from a fearless to a fearful driver almost overnight for no obvious reason.
Fortunately, over time, I made my hidden pain known, despite the overwhelming sense of shame the anxiety invoked. A friend with a biblical counseling repertoire and a brother pursuing a medical doctorate degree, have helped me piece together the root of this affliction. The year prior to the start of the panic attacks, I experienced a number of (small) incidents on the road in which control felt stripped from me. One was a near accident, in which the van in front of me hit ice and swung wildly over both lanes of the highway on a narrow overpass. I had to press forward and pray the van stayed in the other lane as I passed.
Twice, I was in a car that was rear-ended. Another accident occurred when a motorcyclist hit my rear tire as I pulled out from a store parking lot one night. I had looked both ways and had seen nothing. From my perception, the motorcyclist had come out from nowhere. It was questioned post-scene-of-the-accident, whether the motorcyclist had a headlight because none could be found in the pictures of the wrecked motorcycle. These occurrences combined have potentially given me a bit of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The Enemy ruthlessly attacked me in my weakness. I sought to get rid of the Devil’s foothold. I attempted the remedies for driving anxiety a Google search had rendered and the suggestions put forth by friends to no avail.
After a solid year of pushing myself to combat my fear, I gave up. I was tired of the panic attacks. They showed no sign of leaving. Back roads became my main means of going anywhere distant. I resigned to the belief that this affliction was my thorn. Like Paul, I had to accept that it wasn’t going to go away.
This mindset crippled me all the more. I’m certain the Enemy was wearing his evil grin as he saw me sink deeper into despair. But this is not where this story ends, for the Author of Freedom would not just let me be. He’s been faithful as I’ve endured this trial, using it for good. Great is my gratitude for all that He has shed light on as I’ve reached for freedom.
I learned that fear and anxiety come about when we don’t trust that God is good. We are not living in obedience to God when fear and anxiety have a hold on us. For a professed believer, this can create feelings of shame, and thus the natural inclination is to believe a lie, to believe I can have both fear and anxiety and believe that God is good. But fear and anxiety will never loose its grip until you’re honest about your lack of trust in God. It’s when we are honest, that the Holy Spirit can then address the root issue.
My natural inclination to be self-sufficient and strong hinders me. When we are weak, He is strong. We need to lay down our fear and anxiety, and give it to the Lord. We can walk in the light when we stop pretending we’re not scared.
I was impacted dramatically with the wisdom Apostle Paul imparts in Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
When I resigned to my anxiety being my thorn forevermore, I had quit hoping. But it’s only with a hope in God that we can prevail against the Enemy’s schemes. It is only when we hope in Him that the best stories of freedom are written.
For too long, I wanted to ignore my affliction, thus I wasn’t praying about it. We need to be relentless in our communing with Our Lord, to have greater truth spoken over our lives. Each time we get on our knees and seek Him, our world is reoriented as it should be, with Him at the center.
The freedom I now experience allows me to travel over bridges and busy highways fairly painlessly. I’m steadily regaining my ability to drive on the freeway, after a year’s absence. Knowing where I’ve been and where I am now, only God could have freed me from these chains. He is the one to seek if we long to be free.
Kate Franken is a 4th grade teacher and a volunteer coordinator at her church in Oregon. She enjoys indulging in raw conversation whilst savoring a cup or more of coffee. Her hunt for good books and podcasts is endless. She finds refuge surrounded by trees, on hiking trails, with her two dogs in tow. She is especially fond of mountaintop views, wit, “best teacher ever” love letters, breakfast, a painted sky, and Jesus. She has a heart for connecting people to His church and encouraging others into relationship with Him.