“When hard pressed, I cried to the LORD; he brought me into a spacious place.” Psalm 118:5 NIV
“I can’t breathe! Get me out of here!”
I have to admit that I am claustrophobic. I don't do well in tight places. Whether it's cramped elevators or tight MRI imaging booths, even being squeezed too hard or for too long, you’ll find me scrambling for the nearest escape.
Trying to talk myself out of it is pointless as the “all to familiar” signs that a full blown panic attack is imminent begin to take my body and mind hostage. My heart pounds in my chest and my breaths becoming deeper and more frequent as my brain starts shouting, “Get yourself out of here!" Hyperventilation is inevitable if I don't keep reciting over and over again, "Keep it together! Keep it together!"
Over the years, in an attempt to overcome this unreasonable fear, I have forced myself into some very difficult situations, testing my mental fortitude over feelings that scream they are in charge of the next decision I make and action I take.
Will I back down and give up? Or will I press forward and put myself into that hard place, if doing so will grow me and strengthen me, developing in me the endurance I need to press through an even tighter situation I may find myself in tomorrow? I have to live in this world, and it means that I will often find myself in tight places, like it or not.
What’s the alternative? Running from them is no life at all.
Just like the physical moments of discomfort can take our breath away, we all experience emotional moments that force us to gasp as we struggle to cope with situations that paralyze and suffocate us. We are tempted to escape and run the other direction if it means we don't have to endure this suffering one more second.
We all have those hard places where we feel trapped in a corner with no way out. For many, the pain of living with loved ones we are powerless to help can be suffocating. In anger, we might reject them in order to push away gripping pain and fear. I know I have; I still do at times. "It's just too hard," my head screams. "It's too much to bear," my broken heart cries out.
Suffocating pain fills every space inside of me as I struggle against its pressure, knowing surely I will be smothered under its burden if I don't find a way to catch my breath. I admit sometimes I do back down; I give up. It's too hard. “What if” has paralyzed me again.
I long for the freedom of relaxing and taking in a deep breath. I press my face into the fresh air and let the breeze comfort me, convinced that this time I made the right choice to walk away from that uncomfortable, unknown place that surely would have swallowed me up if I let it.
But walking away from discomfort, while it may be the easiest choice, isn't always the best choice.
As we accept the challenge of doing the hard stuff, no matter how threatening it may seem, we free ourselves to allow the Lord to take us to that spacious place of grace, a place where his presence promises to hold us and keep us safe. In that place, we can breathe deeply and step lightly no matter where our earthly feet may be walking.
“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psalm 32:7 NIV
How do we find that place of spaciousness, the place where we step outside the pressures of the moment or the suffocating burdens we have carried for too long?
Quite simply, it takes showing up and giving up. And while this may not sound simple at all, it’s as simple as that. Jesus is waiting for us in a place free from the heavy burdens we carry. He asks us to give them to him as we breathe in the refreshing presence of his spirit. It is possible to let go and breathe freely again.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
The Lord promises to bring us to a spacious place, found only in his presence, free from the worries and concerns of this world, free from situations that threaten to hold us captive, and free from the pressure of always having to make the right decisions.
Here we walk in a spacious place of beauty embraced by his love and tender mercies. May you find that place today.