Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.
1 Timothy 4:7
Friend to Friend
Before our first child was born, my husband and I took a series of classes to prepare us for childbirth. I vividly remember being told by my Lamaze instructor that while in labor, I would need to breathe through each contraction. She would give us instructions like: “Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth” and “When you inhale, allow your belly to expand first, then your chest.” She told us that the way we breathe would affect the way we would experience labor.
We spent a lot of time during those week-after-week classes learning how to breathe in a whole new way. We were taught that the breaths we would take during labor would need to be purposed and controlled. They required discipline and were not like natural breathing. So I practiced and I practiced the special breathing techniques in preparation for when the labor pains came a-knocking.
When the day arrived to welcome my firstborn son, Preston Miles Smith, into the world, I learned what a discipline breathing through contractions really is! There were times during labor that I felt like holding my breath instead of breathing. Times when the pain was so intense that my natural response was to scream instead of to breathe. Yes. This type of breathing was surely a learned behavior, a purposed discipline. And on the other side of this purposed discipline, in spite of all the pain endured, I was blessed to experience the wonderful joy of life.
I’ve labored through many hard life experiences since my child birthing days. I’m sure you have too. There are times when circumstances press us in waves, contractions of life that are seemingly endless. When the waves of trials hit our heart and home, the spiritual discipline of trusting God helps us to breathe through the squeeze of each pressure. I like to call it faith-breathing. When we hunker down and put into practice the act – the discipline – of faith.
But what do we mean by “the discipline of faith”? Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
Just like I learned to breathe in preparation for going through labor pains, Christians learn to breathe through life pains when we implement spiritual disciplines in our lives like prayer, fasting, journaling and Scripture reading. They are purposed disciplines that bring joy and strength. The more we pray, the more we grow in intimacy with God. The more we read and know the Bible, the more we understand God’s will and character. We see over and over again that He is good, faithful, compassionate, loving, gentle, just, holy, righteous and trustworthy in all things. We are encouraged and spurred on by the faith of others. We learn to faith-breathe!
The flames of fire have heated up and refined my faith on many occasions! Life is filled with challenges. God is always with us and will help us breathe through the difficult situations we face. He allows us to go through trials as a part of our refining process. Struggles send us running to God for help, for faith, for strength, for protection and direction. They are often pregnant with pain. Bursting with heartache. If we yield them to God, He uses to rid our lives of trust-barriers like fear and doubt, and to bring glory and honor to him. There are many life contractions that hurt us, but there is no earthly pain that can diminish the hope of our salvation. We must simply breath – continue practicing those spiritual disciplines that bind us to the heart of God.
Trusting God takes discipline. We don’t always feel like it. It’s not always what we want to do. It’s not natural. At times we feel overwhelmed and want to soul-scream. If we always acted on our feelings, our lives would be chaotic messes. As in childbirth, there finally comes the time of deliverance where what is birthed forth to joy is directly the result of the very pain we have gone through.
Dear Father, please teach me to breathe! Strengthen me through life’s hard labor experiences and help me to practice the disciplines I have learned through your Scriptures. When I feel like screaming through the pain, help me to breath by reading and memorizing your Word, fasting and praying, and meditating on your Truth. Thank you for the strength you will give me as I trust in You.
In Jesus’ Name I pray,
Now it’s Your Turn
Read over the verses below and write them on note card and review them until they are committed to memory.
“…all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27b).
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)
More from the Girlfriends
Today’s devotion is an excerpt from Girlfriends in God’s 12-week devotion book, Trusting God.
My next book, I Want It ALL, is now available for pre-order. Here’s the burden in my belly: I believe that you were created to be a woman of impact who is so in love with her Lord and so aware of His might that she cannot help but expect great things and move in His power and grace. That’s the message of I Want It ALL. Pre-order yours today from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or ChristianBook.com.