Fear and Panic: EPDS Question #5

Fear and panic can have drastic effects on a person and can have detrimental physical and emotional responses. The Bible contains many situations of people fearing, some in sinful ways (the Israelites in the wilderness), some in godly ways (Isaiah 6), some in understandable ways (persecution of the saints in 1 Peter). In every single circumstance, scripture reveals that it is best to have a reverential fear of God and of nothing else. Take a look at a concordance like the Blue Letter Bible and try the word search. There are 340 uses of “fear”! I also looked up “panic” and there are 17 uses in the Bible, most having to do with the Lord causing his enemies to flee in a panic.

Yet, two of the most difficult symptoms to manage during my Postpartum depression season were my fear and panic attacks. Question #5 of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) asks the mother how often she has experienced heightened fear or panic for “no very good reason” in the most recent seven days. The purpose of this post is to share some scriptures that directly address fear to a mom experiencing PPD. I will do a follow-up post on some of the more practical ways I defended myself specifically against panic attacks.

I appreciate how Elyse Fitzpatrick defines fear. She says “Physically, fear is a felt reaction to perceived danger,” (Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety, page 14). She goes on to explain that the reaction to a danger can be life-saving, our bodies giving us a dose of adrenaline to live through a stressful situation. But, sometimes the “perceived” dangers never come to physical fruition. An example she uses is a nightmare. A mom who experiences PPD may struggle with nightmares, irrational fears, and panic attacks which other people would consider all “no very good reasons.” Her heightened fears may have to do with the chemical and hormonal imbalances in her body or maybe an existing disposition to anxiety. For me, my adrenaline was in hyper-drive at all times leading to loss of sleep, which led to panic attacks. Whatever the cause or reasoning, there are plenty of scriptures to turn to in seasons of intense fear. Here are some of my favorite verses that encouraged me when I became fearful and also resources that I thought were helpful.

Isaiah 41: 10 says “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” While I was familiar with this verse from previous seasons of trial, I learned to fight the anxiety and fear harder than I had before by remembering that God was with me, holding my hand at all times, as he had in the past. With God as my guide and master, there is nothing that He (and we!) can’t handle.

Psalm 34 was one of my go-to psalms when I was struck with unbridled fear. I love verse four where it says “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” I had this posted on the wall in my bathroom so that I was guaranteed to see it several times a day. The promise that He would deliver me gave me hope. Kristen Wetherell wrote an article on this Psalm entitled Three Ways to Fight Your Fears that I consider to be rich in wisdom, though it is brief.

The article “When Fear Seizes You” by Stacy Reaoch aptly describes what I felt and sums up what I’m trying to say in this post. She wrote that “when fear seizes you, all your ability to think rationally evaporates” and I found that to be very true in my postpartum season. I struggled to think rationally or even in certain moments to recall any scripture verses I’ve read in the past. And then she gives seven very practical suggestions in how to remember what to do when panic sets in, all rooted in God’s word.

And one of my favorite passages from scripture is Matthew 8:23-27 where Jesus calmed the storm from the boat. During the height of my PPD, I listened to a message by Tony Evans entitled “Trusting God in the Storm” that resonated with me. The main take-aways that I applied to my fearful heart during that time were

  • “Do not let the problem override His promise”
  • God doesn’t want the circumstance to trump His word or His presence
  • Jesus is in the boat with me
  • Life’s storms are designed to deepen faith and heighten the experience of Him

There are so many references to fear in the Bible and I’m surmising that it is because God knows that we are a fearful people, needing much reminding and encouragement. Thank you Lord for all the scriptures You’ve supplied us with to combat our anxiety and panic. May Your Word bring peace and confidence in our hearts.

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