Holding Your Breath Under Water

Have you ever been trapped under water? Or maybe you got talked into a “who can hold their breath the longest” contest at the pool as a kid. I hated that game. Why? Because I like to breathe.

Breathing is essential to human life, and I don’t usually enjoy doing things (for fun?) that make me feel like I’m going to die. This is the reason why I’m not a huge fan of adrenaline sports. I prefer to get a rush out of something other than a near-death experience. 

When you’ve been holding your breath for too long, you a get a feeling of panic that is unlike any other panic. It’s a feeling of desperation, a signal from your brain that screams “do WHATEVER YOU HAVE TO DO to get back to some AIR!” The body kicks into a gear of absolute survival. This is a basic instinct that is meant to keep you alive.

Maybe you’ve never had a real-life underwater panic attack, but have you ever felt like your soul was going to drown? The stress of life circumstances, busyness, anxiety, or over activity can leave the human soul gasping. We have a tendency to neglect the things that are vital to life itself.

The problem that I’ve found is that my soul doesn’t recognize its desperate need for air the same way my body does. It usually takes me a while to figure out what’s wrong before I realize that I haven’t had a breath of air in quite a while. I start to frantically go from thing to thing trying to catch my breath. Some look to food, drink, relationships, or other physical comforts to try and satiate the sense of desperation. Physical remedies can’t cure a spiritual problem. In our desperation nothing seems to help. We still feel like we’re drowning.

I believe that God has revealed the answer. The air for my soul is the Presence and Word of God. There is absolutely no substitute for the way that God refreshes my soul. Rest helps, fun helps, time with friends helps, but ultimately all of these things fall short of the air that I need. As the popular worship song from several years ago reminded us, His presence and His word are the very air we breathe.

The problem with being under water is that thinking about breathing isn’t going to help you. You actually have to do it. Knowing you need air is only half the battle. You actually have to surface and breathe. One of the greatest struggles in the Christian life is the battle for dependence on God. We fall so quickly into thinking that we can make it on our own, that we don’t need any help after a while. This is as untrue as if we decided we didn’t need to breathe anymore.

Maybe you feel (like I do at times) like you’re suffocating inside and you don’t know why. Maybe you are desperately looking for breath in places that leave you less satisfied than you were when you started. There is only one answer for us, sit in the presence of the One who is the source of true delight (John 7:37). The surface isn’t as far away as we sometimes think.