Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:21, 22)
For as long as I can remember we have played this ridiculous game on road trips that involves dark, long tunnels. Whenever we approach a tunnel, someone in the car announces, “Tunnel! Hold your breath!” Immediately a contest ensues to see who, the driver included, can hold his or her breath throughout the entire length of the tunnel. A shared, deep inhale leads to giant cheeks and shaking hands as we all attempt to endure until we hit the light of day, and exhale relief in one fell swoop.
Every time we play this game, I think it’s a crazy game. It’s ludicrous, foolhardy, and just plain dumb. Until I realize that this game is very similar to how I live my life.
Recently I went for a hike in the wilderness trails that wind through the San Gabriel Mountains just above my neighborhood. As I readied myself to head up, I came across this sign at the foot of the trail. “Breathe.” Nothing else. Just, “Breathe.”
And it got me thinking. Who needs a reminder to breathe? It’s involuntary. Don’t we do it without a second thought? Unless we’re taking a deep breath or regulating our breathing during a tough run or a moment of fear, most of our breathing is done without deciding to breathe at all.
But that’s just the thing. In some of the toughest, most busy, most demanding seasons of my life, when I’m hard pressed on every side, I tend to hold my breath. I wonder if you’re anything like me?
In the darkest times of my life, I often cope like I’m in that tunnel. I put my head down, stick my nose to the grindstone, and push through. It’s like I’m holding my breath until the darkness passes. I’m hanging in there until the light shines through, not realizing my God stands ready to breathe peace and light and hope into the darkest corners of my life.
He invites me to…
“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
He invites me to breathe. He invites me to release. He invites me to cast all my cares upon Him.
When things get tough, the tough don’t get going. When things get tough, we strengthen ourselves in the Lord. We know that we don’t have the strength, the grit, the endurance to endure without His help. We acknowledge that Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”
And so we breathe. We stop. We confess our helplessness and look to the One who stands ready to help. We cry out. We slow down. We rest. We request. And He breathes peace that surpasses all understanding to sustain us until the light shines through, and we can see where we’re going again.
When Jesus breathed peace and the power of the Holy Spirit onto His disciples, they were in the darkest of places. Their Lord and Savior had just been crucified, the Light of the World snuffed out, the Hope of the World vanquished. And so they huddled in this little room, in this dark place, doors locked for fear of the very leaders that had taken their Savior away. The were holding their breath until the darkness subsided, not really knowing how it would.
And then the Light shown through. He approached them in this darkest corner of their lives and spoke peace, and strength, and hope, and life in His name. Sorrow turned to joy. Despair turned to hope. Light shown in the darkness. And they could breathe again.
I don’t know what’s stealing your breath right now. I don’t know what darkness you find yourself in. Whatever it is, I’m sure it showed up un-welcomed. I’m guessing it feels hard and dark and desolate. I’d bet you feel worn out, paper-thin, and just plain done.
In many ways, I feel like the whole world is in this dark tunnel, holding our collective breath, waiting for this moment to pass and better days to come. I know that I am.
But then I remember the disciples huddled in that tiny room, doors locked, eyes closed, feeling utterly abandoned. And then Jesus showed up. He breathed life. He spoke hope. He strengthened their weary hearts and declared the truth of who He is, a living, compassionate friend of sinners who has overcome anything this world can dish out.
He’s with us in the same way today. He’s still the Light of this world. The hope we have in Him has not changed.
Don’t give up. Cast your cares on Him. Breathe in His peace, His life, His rest, His presence. Be still for a moment. He’s still God. And He loves you immensely.
Breath of Life, breathe on this hurting world. Breathe on me. Breathe on us. You are the air we breathe. Apart from you we can do nothing. But with you, we will make it through this tunnel–however long it takes–and out to the other side.