This morning I woke up in a panic . . .
my chest pounding hard within . . .
that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach . . .
fear gripping my heart as I struggled to take a breath . . . .
Does that ever happen to you? Sometimes the source of what causes such a panicky state is identifiable–in my case, it was “seeing” hundreds of golden spiders lowering themselves toward me in a dream. But such panic can hit without warning and without a cause that is readily apparent . . . what then? Having had to confront my own personal issues with fear and anger–yes, the two are often related–and having worked with countless others in the Counseling Room, I have learned:
WHEN FEAR (OR ANGER) GRIP THE HEART, FAITH MUST BREATHE DEEPER STILL.
Faith breathes? It may sound a little crazy, but hear me out. In the Counseling Room, when talking about dealing with fear or anger as Christians, we look to the Scriptures for guidance. Many times we talk about how to walk by faith (not just by sight like the rest of the world does) and learn to view tough times as opportunities trust God more. In Chapter Two of his letter, James concluded,
“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”*
Thus, according to James, it is as faith is worked out in our lives that the evidence of genuine faith is revealed.
The Bible also commands that we be a thankful people before our God and King . . . thankful no matter what our circumstance. I Thessalonians 5:16-18 encourages,“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Now, here is where breathing ties in with faith:
One of the best ways of energizing faith, when overwhelmed by on-going problems or facing the unexpected, is to take a deep breath as you mentally stop whatever you are doing. As you take in that first breath (making it as deep and long as you can), mentally turn to God and give thanks to Him for His love. Continue on that vein (recalling every wonderful thing you know about God from the Scriptures) with every breath:
“Thank You God that you love me–even when I do not feel or deserve it.
Thank You that You are with me–even though I feel totally alone.
Thank You that You have a plan and a purpose for my life–even though I cannot fathom how this fits into what that might be.
Thank You God for being faithful, even when I fail You . . .
Thank You, thank You, thank You–that You are my God of HOPE!
After reading an article on How to Breathe Properly, written by Karen Lee Richards–patient advocate and co-founder of the National Fibromyalgia Association– I was struck by how our physical breathing and learning to breathe spiritually are similar. Richards wrote.
“Breathing affects virtually every part of the body. It oxygenates the body, revitalizing organs, cells and tissues. Breathing properly:
- Fuels energy production
- Improves focus and concentration
- Eliminates toxins
- Strengthens the immune system
- Improves bowel function
- Reduces stress, tension and anxiety
- Increases feelings of calmness and relaxation
As important as breathing is to our bodies faith, as it is applied with every spiritual breath we take, is every bit as beneficial. With every spiritual breath we take, faith fuels our spiritual energy. Faith improves and narrows our spiritual focus as the toxicity of sin is eliminated through repentance. Also, as faith is lived out, our spiritual immunity is strengthened as we honor Christ in our lives. Every spiritual breath we take improves . . . yes, even our bowels(!) as it reduces stress, tension and anxiety.
In the article, Richards differentiates between shallow chest breathing (what sufferers of chronic pain do to minimize pain) and slow, deep abdominal breathing. Richards says, “Shallow chest breathing makes people feel tense” and can induce symptoms that include “mental fog, dizziness, irritability, chest pain, feeling numb and more.” Yet with slow, deep abdominal breathing, ‘feelings of calmness” are the resulting benefit.
Just as how we breathe impacts our bodies and perceptions, faith as it is applied (or not) also affects our bodily functions as well as our minds and hearts.
In the final chapter of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul wrote to encourage believers living in perilous times to run not from difficulty, but to instead run to the One they loved and served. Paul wrote to remind his fellow believers that our strength is not in ourselves; that our battle strategy is to stand by faith against evil as God works out His perfect plan through us:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devils schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
No matter what your circumstance, you can know and trust that our Sovereign and Good God will provide the strength and wisdom you need to honor Him with your life. NOW . . . READY . . . SET . . . BREATHE!
All to His Glory!