If I had to choose a word to describe this year so far, it would be breath. It has undoubtedly been the greatest determining factor as to how we have experienced these last eight months worldwide.
Because the coronavirus is thought to be spread by inhaling the respiratory particles of an infected person,1 it was the cause of a quarantine across our nation and around the globe earlier this year. It has also encouraged and even mandated social distancing and face masks in certain states.
It has caused restaurants, schools, sporting events, stores, and churches to close their doors for a time (and for some of them to stay shut). Furthermore, once an individual is infected by the coronavirus, breath becomes an even greater concern since COVID-19 is a respiratory illness2 that, for some people, leads to hospitalization and possible death.
If all this were not enough to convince a person of the underlying theme of breath this year, we must not forget how pronounced this idea was in late May and early June as individuals started to inundate social media with three simple words— “I can’t breathe.”
This statement echoed George Floyd’s own words before he died a horrific and unjust death, but it speaks so aptly to this year in general. I can’t breathe. The truth is, this year has probably left us all feeling like we can’t breathe at some point or another, regardless of our reasons. How can we catch our breath, after all, when so much tragedy has occurred in such a short amount of time?
Years ago, I was given a One-Year Study Bible as a gift, and as I started to read it, I was intrigued by the emerging theme of breath throughout its pages.
One of the ideas that struck me most was how often individuals were brought to life when God placed breath within them, the most glorious example being how mankind came to be.
When God created Adam, He formed his body out of dust. Adam did not come to life, however, until God breathed the breath of life into him (Gen 2:7).
We see a similar example in Ezekiel 37 when God tells Ezekiel to prophesy over the dry bones. As he does, God causes tendons, flesh, and skin to cover them so that they become bodies once again. Nonetheless, it is not until Ezekiel prophesies to the breath by the Lord’s command that these bodies are given life and stand to their feet as a vast army (Ezekiel 37:10).
Similarly, the two witnesses in Revelation are brought back to life three and a half days after they are killed when God places the breath of life into their dead bodies (Revelation 11:11).
What fascinates me about these passages is the fact that God was so intentional to place the breath of life into each of them. He is also intentional to do so with us today. Our lives did not happen by accident. They have been God’s doing. We are truly in His hands.
Another idea that stood out to me throughout Scriptures was how often a person’s life was described as a breath. Consider the following passages:
“You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.”Psalm 39:5
LORD, what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them? They are like a breath; their days are like a fleeting shadow.Psalm 144:3-4
As I read these passages (and others) years ago, it changed the way I thought about my own life. I started to view it as a breath that God had breathed into me, and its length would be only as long as a slow exhale at most. As a result of these insights, I had some questions to ponder. What would I exhale? Would I breathe out the air God had breathed into me? Or would I merely exhale my own hot air?
I don’t think of these questions very often, but I should. I have the opportunity to determine what air I will breathe every day. I get to choose what I will inhale and what I will exhale consequently, so I need to be deliberate about what I am breathing in.
Recently, as I was rereading the passages mentioned above, I stumbled upon a well-known passage from 2 Timothy. It states the following:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”2 Timothy 3:16
This passage only confirms to me that, if I am going to exhale the “breath of God” regularly, I need to do so by inhaling His God-breathed Scripture daily. The more I allow His Word to permeate my heart and mind, the more my own short “exhale of life” will reflect Him in my words and actions.
In a year in which we are asked to restrict the breadth of our physical breath and thus slow the spread of the coronavirus, let’s deeply exhale our life in a way in which the Gospel and God’s Word will be spread to others. Let’s use our breath to speak words of life into others through truth, encouragement, and lasting hope in God. This world needs the breath of life in a way that it has never known before, so let’s be a reflection of the Breath-Giver in whatever way we can and see what He does as a result.