A Waste of Breath?

Typically by the 13th day since the onset of symptoms, a vast majority of those infected with the C-19 Virus, would have recovered. I, however, found myself staring at the walls of the Emergency Room, waiting for a bed in the ICU, experiencing moderate breathlessness and erratic oxygen saturation levels.

In the ICU, everyone of us were on oxygen support. Pristine oxygen was being used to save our lives, keeping those SPO2 numbers on the monitors around 90%. It was staring at those incessantly beeping monitors that I realized, what a waste we make of the most important thing needed for us to survive. Man can live a lifetime without shelter or covering, weeks without food and days without water. Yet, not many survive minutes without breath. Yet, our pursuit has always been to look better, live grander, eat richer; but it is never after making the most of every breath we are bestowed with.

It is not just the existence of life that our breath holds, but the quality of it too. Lying on my bed, remembering my wife, who was also quarantined at home, I could only manage a few tears in the Almighty’s presence. Weeping needed breath. When someone sent a fun video to lift my spirits, all I could manage was a smile and some awkward coughs. I needed breath for a hearty laugh too. When it was time to talk to my mother, who knew nothing about the situation I was in because of her own health, all I could muster were some breathless mumbles. To string words emphatically, I needed breath. What is life without a sob or a laugh or a conversation shared? Yet, we set aside things that really matter and bury ourselves into devices, wasting precious breaths.

The fascinating thing about breath, in the context of Christianity is that,  it is the only thing that passed from the innermost being of God to the innermost being of man. God’s creativity touched man in his design, God’s foresight in the system he was designed in. But God’s breath gave man his life. “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2.7, NASB).  These words explain this grand connection between God and Adam. A connection of breath.

Breathlessness. It was perhaps Job who felt the shackles of breathlessness the most. He makes a note of his breath at least seven times in his portion of replies to his friends and many of those are painful. One of these verses appears in Job 9.18, NASB. “He will not allow me to get my breath, but saturates me with bitterness”. This is a complaint addressed straight toward God, set in a scene of judgment. Perhaps Job’s breathlessness was more to do with the shackles of words rather than literal gasps for air. But the point is driven.

Job’s pain was unfathomable. From a sense of divine prosperity and supernatural security, Job landed a destitute in a matter of hours. The way it happened pointed to God’s involvement. Job did not have a glimpse of the divine drama that had earlier unfolded, but the swiftness indicated the supernatural. God had turned against him. That much was clear to him. And yes, calamity after calamity struck him in succession. Breathlessness and suffocation. His wife was not helping matters and his pompous, self-righteous friends were doing more harm than the good counsel they thought they were giving. The noose was tightening around Job and as he was trying to make sense of the situation, he found his very theological substance shaking at the foundations.

Job was looking through his colored glasses. Focusing on his breaths. Which is why his arguments were peppered with his righteousness, his efforts, his works. And he tried to gauge God’s response in proportion to his effort.

As we turn to Psalms, David, the other tragic hero of the Old Testament, had a similar experience as Saul pursued him with an intent to destroy. In the beautifully written Psalm 18, David says this: “.. the chords of death encompassed me…” (Psalm 18.4, NASB). This very expression is suggestive of being breathless. Like in the case of Job, David’s suffocation was not literal but it was with a lack of options to turn to; to run toward as his enemies surrounded him. He felt the chords tightening around him and as we see in the Psalm, he cried out to the Lord in distress.

David’s Psalm is a victorious Psalm. Written after the victory. Job’s words were being experienced at that moment. So, there is no comparison between both stalwarts of faith that I am drawing. Yet, in victory look at how David shifts his view from his own breathlessness to that holy, pure, life giving, powerful breath of God. He reminisces, “…then the channels of water appeared and the foundations of the earth were laid bare at Your rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils. “ (Psalms 18.15, NASB). From his own suffocating breathlessness David looks toward the Lord’s breath. It transports him to an event so powerful that it no longer was just David in his loneliness, but the earth and the creation that responds to God as He responds to David. For to answer one man’s prayer, the Lord quaked the earth.

The Grammy winning song 10,000 reasons is close to my heart. All through my sickness, I was singing it, so much so that whether I could hit the notes properly or not became a test to how breathless I was. The title for the song is picked from the line that goes, “for all your goodness I will keep on singing, 10,000 reasons for my heart to find”. On one of these sick days it occurred to me that during our times of distress, we often fail to find those 10,000 reasons but hold on to that one reason that had caused us distress. Those ten thousand reasons help us to focus on God; this one reason for distress makes us focus on ourselves.

“Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; for why should he be esteemed?”, the Lord asks in Isaiah 2.22, NASB. That means we need to stop regarding ourselves too. Stop focusing on our pain and our breath that had become corrupt and weak, but focus on God’s breath, which is as powerful as always. Isaiah describes God’s breath as an overflowing torrent and a torrent of brimstone. David sings that His breath creates. Isaiah also adds that His breath slays. That is something to focus on.

As the days progressed and Oxygen support seemed to become endless, my prayer evolved. My breath, my struggle was no longer the focus, except perhaps, in a moment of weakness. The Lord’s breath became my focus.

Job after constantly complaining about the injustice he seems to have faced, had an encounter with the Lord. God asked him some poignant questions. Those questions did not ask Job to look at his accomplishments, beliefs or values; rather, they prompted Job to look around and notice the eternity in the present; the order in chaos; to notice the power in simplicity; to notice God in the seemingly small and grand things. Once the tremendous revelation from God ended, Job could do nothing but repent for having spoken things that he did not fathom. The magnitude of Job’s problems disappeared in the dazzling light of God’s revelations.

Both Job and David are examples that teach us to focus on God. To focus on the 10,000 reasons that are there to praise Him. To focus on His powerful, life-altering breaths rather than our own corrupt and short breaths.

It took me over a week to write this on my phone. Most of the time lying in my bed using one hand. But today, as I write the last paragraph, I sit in a chair, waiting to be discharged. My breath will stop some day. But God’s breath will continue me into eternity. That is a solid hope to have.

You may be sick, ambushed by words like Job or surrounded by difficulties like David. Find those 10,000 reasons. Do not waste breath on the one reason that is weighing you down, but find God’s breath. Find God’s Word. In the light of God, the burden you carry will surprisingly become lighter. You will be filled with His breath. The noose loosens. You will breathe again. May you breathe again with the breath of the Almighty in your nostrils!

P.S Pradeep and his wife, Archana are from Chennai, Pradeep is associated with UESI since childhood. He is a market researcher by profession, but passionately preaches the word of God and often writes.


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