Take a deep breath, God; calm down—don’t be so hasty with your punishing rod. (Psalm 38:1 MSG)
“Take a deep breath and calm down.”
Such an advice is not unfamiliar to many of us. We know deep breathing is one of the best ways to calm down, especially when we are feeling stressed. Few of us, however, pay attention to the fact that it is only when we breathe out that our tension is released, not when we breathed in. Holding our breath tenses us up and makes us feel breathless.
People with panic disorder frequently experience shortness of breath or the feeling of not having enough air in their lungs, according to an article at PanicDisorder.About.com. Since all of us need to breathe to sustain life, such symptoms quickly bring about a sense of panic and fear. When we experience anxiety or panic, our breathing becomes quick, short and shallow, usually not because of a lack of oxygen, but because of over breathing or hyperventilation.
A quick relief to hyperventilation is to breathe into a paper bag, as advised in an article at Medical-Dictionary.TheFreeDictionary.com. Hyperventilation reduces the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in our blood. By rebreathing the CO2 that was exhaled and trapped in the paper bag, the amount of CO2 in the bloodstream can be normalized.
Like the way exhaling helps provide relief from tension, the Bible mentioned a number of ways we can find relief from unwanted stress. When King David was on the edge of losing it, he cried out to God and confessed his sin (Psalm 38:3-4, 17-18). He called upon God not to dump him or stand him up, but to calm down and not be so hasty with the punishing rod (Psalm 38:21, 1). David poured out all his sorrows to God and did not hide anything from God (Psalm 38:8-9).
Are we losing our breath and panicking because of anxiety or stress? Are we exhaling and breathing too quickly, exerting and spending too much of our energy on things that are unfruitful or exhausting? If we are, then we need to let go what is holding our breath so that we may find relief from our tension. Just as the paper bag helps regulate hyperventilation, let God’s word regulate our lives that we may no longer smug in our sin. Confess to God all our wrongdoings and cry out to God just as David did. Seek forgiveness in sorrow, repent, and hide nothing from God.
If we are feeling all dried up, hopeless, with nothing left to look forward to, God is saying to us to follow Him, and He will save us from our sinful backsliding and will cleanse us. He will breathe His life into us and make a covenant of peace with us that will hold everything together for eternity (Ezekiel 37:11, 14, 23-24, 26).
Dear Lord, thank You for granting us relief in our times of stress and anxiety. You O God know our hearts, and all the things we have done and intend to do. Our souls are opened up before You and we hide nothing from You. We confess our failings Lord and repent of all our sins. Forgive us Lord and save us from our sinful backsliding. Cleanse us and breathe Your life into us that we may be restored in Your covenant of peace all the days of our lives to eternity.