I did not know what was happening. When I boarded the bus or the train to work, I would break out in a sweat and my heart would beat so hard that I just knew other people could hear it. I believed I was dying, and I was terrified of dying among strangers. Fellow passengers asked if they could help me, but I always said that I would be fine. I would arrive at my destination, do my job all day, and then, go through the horror once again going home. Finally, the day came when I could not go to work because I could not force myself to get on a bus or a train. It was like living in darkness, even though the sun was shining every day, and I seemed to be looking at someone else live my life. That’s when I knew I needed help!
My doctor said that I was having panic attacks, and that they were caused by extreme stress and overwork. I worked 40 hours a week, volunteered at a shelter for women and children two days a week, was taking three college courses and I meant to make As in all three, had a boyfriend who wanted more of my time, and had a teenager still at home that needed my time and attention as well. I believed that I could do it all, so I never asked for help or thought to let something go. My sense of value and worth came from being the best that I could be at everything I did. So I operated every day in the darkness of perfectionism, trying to win the love and approval of others. From when I was a little girl, it seemed that the only times people liked me or loved me were when I was making As and getting awards for being the best speller or the smartest student.
As I took the medications each day to keep the panic attacks at bay, I also started reading my Bible, for I knew that if I were to come out of the darkness in my life, I needed to connect to a light source that was greater than the darkness inside me. I had stopped going to church, mainly because I did not have the time to attend with all I had to do, but then I remembered Jesus’s words in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”
I had tried to find the light I needed to sustain me in my accomplishments and in my own intelligence, but those are just temporary light sources, ones with very short lifespans. They require constant energy on our part, and they can be taken away in the blink of an eye. For me, just getting a B in a class was enough to cast me back into the darkness. But Jesus is the Light that never goes out, and when we put our trust in Him, we do not need the approval of others, for He constantly reminds us in God’s words that we are more valuable than even the sparrows. I stopped volunteering, cut my classes down to two a semester, and stopped working on weekends, so I could attend church and reconnect to my light and life Source.
In Isaiah 50: 10-11, the prophet reminds us that the Lord must be the source of our light. He says, “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys his servant? If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the Lord and rely on your God. But watch out, you who live in your own light and warm yourselves by your own fires. This is the reward you will receive from me: You will soon fall down in great torment.” There are few episodes in our lives more tormenting than walking in darkness, feeling separated from our God and from the people around us. God is our everlasting light, and He delights in bringing us out of our darkness and into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).
Darkness comes in different forms for each of us, and it is not until we connect to the Light Source of the world, Jesus Christ our Lord, that we learn that our value and worth do not originate in the approval of others, but in the fact that we are created in God’s very image. If you are struggling in darkness today, be encouraged by the words of Paul in Ephesian 5:8, “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!” Let us be people of light, trusting in the One who hears and answers prayers, and then let our lights shine on others, helping to lift them out of the darkness that seeks to devour them. Praise the Lord!
Father in Heaven,
Thank you for the Light from Heaven that shines on us and keeps us out of the darkness that threatens our sense of value and our very lives. Help us to be lights for others, leading them by our lights into Your presence. Oh, Lord, we need you every day! Lord, you know what darkness each of us experiences, and thankfully, there is no darkness so great that You can not penetrate it and bring us into the light that saves us, for from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. In Jesus’s Name, I pray. Amen.