How to Keep our Souls from Suffocating

My lungs push hard against my ribs from the pressure. I feel as if my chest might explode. I have only made it 28 seconds, so as much as it pains me, I am not ready to quit.  I grit my teeth, close my eyes, and focus, hoping to last just at least 2 seconds longer. I used to be able to do this for over a minute. I can’t believe it hurts this much after so little time. I guess maybe it is more difficult to do at 33 than it was at 13.

I squirm in my seat, as the discomfort starts to spread into my ears. Finally, at 39 seconds, I can’t do it anymore. In a burst, I release the carbon dioxide that has been building in my lungs. It is amazing how much lighter I feel the instant I stop holding my breath.

Our bodies are meant to breathe.

We can hold onto the carbon dioxide for a little while, but eventually, we have to let it out. It is a toxin that needs to be released so that fresh air can enter.

No one is too ashamed to breathe out. No one wonders how the atmosphere will react to the carbon dioxide. We all know it is necessary for life. We don’t even have to think about it. Our bodies make the exchange naturally.

Old air for new. Toxins for nutrients. Death for life.

It is a metaphor that has been used before, yet I cannot resist using it now myself. I can think of no better visual.

What breathing is for our lungs, confession is for our souls.

The term “confession” often carries a heaviness that has been imposed upon it by religious misunderstanding. It seems more synonymous with words like obligation or burden than the word life.

But confession is not something God pushes down on us. He does not place it on our shoulders as a weight, keeping us down, reminding us how we don’t measure up.

God offers us confession as a gift.

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. – Psalm 32:3-4

When we hold our breath, our lungs feel heavy upon us. This is not a burden, but a signal.  Our body is telling us to release the toxins before it is too late. The Lord offers us that same feeling. God knows that holding our sins tight to us will slowly suffocate our souls.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. – Psalm 32:5

When we confess our sins to God, we are forgiven. This is an essential truth of the Christian faith. God is not hovering over us, waiting to pounce on us for all the ways we have fallen short. God is standing in front of us with arms outstretched, waiting to take the weight of sin from our lives so our souls can breathe again.

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. – Psalm 32:1-2, 6

The faithful are not those who do not sin. The faithful are those who confess their sin, and receive the gift of forgiveness.

Before writing this post, I took out my journal. It has been getting dusty on my shelf lately, even though I know journalling is a practice that is life-giving to my faith. I knew I needed to practice confession before I wrote about it.

I wrote out prayers. I laid out on the page ways I have been falling short, things I have been struggling with, places I have been reaching for stuff other than God to meet my needs.

I only spent 20 minutes writing. That’s not a lot of time or effort. Yet the weight it lifted from my soul was tangible.

Confession is an act of trust in the character of my God. I am releasing the toxin of my sin and breathing in the grace of His forgiveness.

Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. - Psalm 32:10

Walk through the Psalms is a series reflecting on the beautiful and timeless poetry found in the middle of the Bible. It is an intentional study of God’s Word, grounded in the belief that God gave us the Bible so we could meditate on it, whether that takes us through inspiring or frustrating territory.