Don’t Hold Your Breath

Scott Jones – Gilbert Campus Pastor

Are you good at holding your breath? Remember when you did this as a kid in the pool with your friends? If you could hold it for 30 seconds, you won. And if you’re anything like me, I bet you took the deepest breath you could before going under.

Do you know the world record for holding your breath under water? 11:54. That’s right; a human being actually held their breath for 11 minutes and 54 seconds! I learned through an interview with Adam Skolnick that there are free divers who hold their breath so long they can reach unthinkable depths. Alexey Molchanov holds the current record at 128 meters.

And here’s the kicker: they don’t take a deep breath. Because grabbing a massive gulp of air actually raises your heart rate and decreases your ability to stay under longer.

The free divers have tapped into is something called the “mammalian dive reflex.” Dolphins use this to help them acclimate to the different pressures of depth. There are actually three atmospheres of pressure.

  • At the surface where we’re at 1 atmosphere and our lungs at are 100% capacity
  • 10 meters down where we’re at 2 atmospheres and our lungs are half their normal size
  • 20 meters down where we’re at 3 atmospheres and our lungs are a third of their normal size

The deeper you dive the more pressure on your lungs. But the mammalian dive reflex enables you to slow your heart rate down to such a degree that the brain tells the body “it’s okay you can handle this.” So it’s not your lungs, it’s your brain that allows you to hold your breath longer. Adam noted, “So instead of being scared, you have to surrender and relax.”

By now, you’re starting to see the spiritual parallels. Every Jesus follower is called to endure under pressure. And there are different atmospheres where the pressure is greater.

  • Sometimes you live at the surface. Your job is going great, your kids are following your rules, and you’re in great health.
  • Sometimes you’re 10 meters down. Sales are dropping, your marriage is strained, or there’s a spot on your x-ray.
  • Sometimes you’re at a depth that makes you want to rush to the surface. You got laid off, your teen daughter was caught drinking, or you lost a loved one.

But instead of being scared, we have to surrender and relax. Tap into that spiritual reflex that allows you to slow your heart rate down, be at peace and dive deeper. Don’t rush to the surface for a gulp of air. And don’t lose sight of the purpose of pressure. The writer James reminds us:

You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. James 1:2-6 MSG

When under pressure, pray.

Recently at the 2017 Global Leadership Summit, Juliet Funt spoke about “WhiteSpace.” She defined WhiteSpace as “a strategic pause taken between activities.” Funt challenges people to include WhiteSpace into their lives in order to reduce pressure and be more productive.

WhiteSpace is important for marketplace productivity. But it’s even more important to spiritual formation.

I don’t want to be formulaic and I certainly don’t want to diminish your personal pain. But I do want to bring us back to the reality of Scripture. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

Prayer is the “WhiteSpace” to help you handle pressure.

Don’t hold your breath; breathe out your prayers as a ”strategic pause.” Put some WhiteSpace in between the pressure points of your life and God will give you peace.

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Don’t Hold Your Breath

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About The Author
- I am the programming coordinator at Central Christian Church AZ. I also moderate the Central Teaching Blog. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!