Breathing is an important part of our autonomic system. But, it’s more complicated than simply opening our mouths and inhaling and exhaling every eight seconds or so. The entire respiratory system needs to be functioning properly in order to get the most benefit from those breaths, and if any one part goes haywire it can throw us off. Not getting enough air can result in health issues from a mild case of asthma, a twinge of dizziness, to death, and a whole list of complications in between.
Anxiety can cause shortness of breath and shortness of breath can cause anxiety. I would know. I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in college. It probably shouldn’t have been a surprise. I was what I like to call a “concerned child.” As I got older my concerns grew and developed into anxiety. In college it was discovered when the anxiety got the best of me and reared its ugly head in a big way and I started to fall apart.
I’ve learned a lot about managing my stress and worry since then, but one of my greatest tools took the longest for me to discover. That is, the breath of praise.
I’d like to say I’ve been practicing it for years now, but I haven’t. I’ve only really been practicing it the past 6 months. Perhaps I started to understand its power in small ways over the past year, at most.
As a child I discovered that I could lift my mood by singing upbeat or fun songs. But as an adult I never applied it much. I certainly didn’t practice singing when in the depths of angst as I paced the house. I knew I could pray and I could ask friends to pray, and so I would. But, often I found that once the texts were sent, I fell back into worry, back into walking circles into the floor, and back to restlessly scrubbing the kitchen until it was gleaming.
And then it happened. One day while texting a friend of my worries over the possibility of losing our home while my husband was without work, she responded with a YouTube link of a song. I opened it and listened, half expecting a corny tired Sunday School tune.
But it wasn’t. It was exactly what I needed. I burst into tears and then listened 2 more times so I could hear every word and even start to sing along with the chorus. And just like that, I started to breathe again.
I didn’t know I had been holding my breath in some moments and then mildly hyperventilating in others until I began to breath. With each breath came a calming; A knowing that it would be ok and I remembered that God was still on his throne and able to handle all my worries. And in the clarity I was reminded of 1 Peter 5:7 “cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
And then I realized why Jesus is called the Breathe of Life.
If I am not breathing in Jesus with every single inhale of my life then I can grow weak, weary, and sick. I can become burdened by life and anxiety. But when I turn to Jesus, rest and exhale with the praises he deserves, then each breath I breathe in is full and pure and exactly what my mind, body, and soul needs. And, I am learning that the breath of God is enough for every anxiety. And then I get something I didn’t know I could have: I gain that supernatural peace as well.