Breathe Easy

November 22nd, 2013

The National Basketball Association began its regular season a few weeks ago. One player who will be in the spotlight this year is Cleveland Cavaliers forward Anthony Bennett, the top overall pick in this year’s draft. Last month Cavaliers’ coach Mike Brown revealed to the media that Bennett struggles with asthma. The asthma, coupled with Bennett’s recovery from shoulder surgery this past summer, has hampered his conditioning.

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects millions of people and causes regular, if not constant, inflammation of the bronchial tubes inside the lungs. This inflammation is aggravated by a variety of factors including allergies, exercise, illness, cigarette smoke, and even the weather. But what is most remarkable about asthma is the medical community’s ability to treat it. Asthma used to be an ailment that kept people from participating in activities such as sports and music. (Try playing a trumpet solo without being able to take a deep breath.) These days it isn’t that unusual for someone with asthma to excel as an athlete, a singer, or in any number of other fields. The list of famous people with asthma includes Olympic greats (such as Jackie Joyner-Kersee), former NFL stars (such as Jerome Bettis), and chart-topping vocalists (such as Pink).

Breathe In

Those who have asthma know the frustration of feeling trapped, as though they cannot draw in a full breath. Most all of us have experienced feeling spiritually out of breath. Filling our souls with the Holy Spirit is like filling our lungs with oxygen. Just as asthmatics can “get by” without treatment by limiting their activities, self-medicating, or pushing themselves past their healthy limits, we as Christians can “get by” in our daily activities without renewing our spirits. But we need to do more than simply “get by.” It is critical that we find ways to breathe in God’s Spirit through prayer, meditation, worship, and holy conversations with Christian friends and mentors.

Youth today face many pressures: academic, athletic, artistic, family-based, social, and more. Just about every young person has times when he or she isn’t sure how he or she will get by. Just about every young person experiences doubts, temptations, and despair at some point during his or her adolescence. These times of spiritual uncertainty and exhaustion cannot be avoided, but they can be managed. We should never dismiss or make light of a young person’s struggles, but we can always point that young person toward the relief and refreshment that God offers.

Breathe Out

The truly amazing thing about athletes like Anthony Bennett isn’t that they continued to be active with their asthma, but that they chose to persevere through and beyond the limits of their condition. It is easy for us to give in to frustration when we are faced with problems that are beyond our control; but when we give up, we are forgetting that there is no problem that God can’t solve. If we seek God during times of spiritual exhaustion, God will lead us forward, providing rest and comfort.

Many people have successfully managed and overcome the negative effects of chronic asthma. They have not allowed the ailment to define them nor place limitations on them. We, as Christians, can learn from their example. When we are spiritually short of breath, unable to breathe in God’s Spirit, we need not throw up our hands in resignation. Instead, we need to manage the situation by turning to God and allowing God to fill and refresh us through the Holy Spirit.

This article is also published as part of LinC, a weekly digital resource for youth small groups and Sunday school classes. The complete study guide can be purchased and downloaded here.

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