When I was 12 I could hold my breath for over 2 1/2 minutes. Now-a-days 1 1/2 minutes would impress me a lot. My friends and I used to have intense competitions to see who could hold our breath longest. We would plunge ourselves under water and go until our lungs were exploding. I remember gripping the handle on the pool ladder harder and harder as my body began to scream for relief. I’d open my eyes and squint at my competition hoping to see that they had caved first. Involuntary pangs would set in. My stomach muscles would begin to contract as my body began to rebel trying to force the air out of my longs for a new breath. I would grunt and grudgingly release a few bubbles now and then which seemed to release the strain a little and gain me an extra 10 seconds or so.
A friend of mine recounted this parable that he heard from an old Swiss saint:
A young christian fellow once asked a God fearing and Spirit-Filled old man how it was that he seemed to know God so intimately. What was the secret to truly knowing God?
The old man led him down to a river.
“Walk with me into the water,” he said. When they got about chest deep the old man said, “now take a deep breath and go under the water.”
The young man thought it strange but did so anyway.A few moments went by and the young man began wondering what all this was about. He opened his eyes to look around but could see nothing because the water was murky.
Presently, he decided to come up for a breath. Exhaling, he came up toward the surface. Suddenly, he felt a firm hand take his head and shove it back down.
With no breath left in reserve, a wave of panic set in. The crazy old man was trying to drown him! Again he attempted to break the surface, but was sharply driven down with surprising force. With his strength ebbing,desperation rising, and his lungs burning, the young man began to thrash and pull away. Finally somehow he found air. Choking and spitting the muddy water he gasped for air. Wielding around he ran for shore without looking back.
Anger and a feeling of total betrayal filled him. Upon reaching the shore He swung around and screamed cursing the old man. “Are you mad! What is the matter with you?!”
The old man, still standing in the water, calmly looked at him and said, “Until you hunger and thirst for God like you sought for breath in your lungs just now you will not begin to know the depths of God.”
Hold your breath for 30 seconds…how does that feel?
Tell me, when was the last time you fasted? Wept in prayer? Disappeared where no one could find you just to be with Jesus?
When was the last time you got down on your knees, gripped the edge of your bed and wept for a word from the Lord? Not because of someing pressing crisis or decision that had to be made, but because it had been too long. The air in your lungs had grown stale. It had been too long between “spiritual breaths.”
Get what I mean?
“Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God?” (Deut 8:3)
Are you feeling the pangs of withdrawal from God?
Is there a desperation rising in your Spirit?
Don’t sit on it…don’t mope around and lament about your sad spiritual state. Press in brother. Wrestle with God as Jacob did sister! Take hold of him. Your very life depends on it.
Here’s a practical example of a man that did this.
I’ll send you on you’re way to your prayer closet with a good ol’ Martin Luther pep talk:
“You must learn to pray and not sit alone or lie about, hanging your head and shaking it, brooding over your thoughts, worrying about how you can escape and looking at nothing but yourself and and your sad and painful condition. Get up, you lazy villain, then fall upon your knees, lift up your eyes and hands towards heaven, take a Psalm or the Lord’s Prayer, and pour out your trouble with tears before God, lamenting and calling upon him…” -Martin Luther