“Don’t hold your breath!” This sentiment is usually thrown at us sarcastically, by someone who is essentially, trying to dampen our hope. It starts already when we’re children asking for elaborate birthday gifts – “Don’t hold your breath!” When we’re adolescents trying out a theory that room-cleaning robots will be invented before we have to do our chores – “Don’t hold your breath!” It follows us into adulthood, when we interview for our dream job without seniority – “Don’t hold your breath!” Or if we’re parenting and hoping for a full night’s sleep – “Don’t hold your breath!”
Uttered almost automatically, “don’t hold your breath” means that someone thinks we’re setting an unrealistic goal, or asking too much, or anticipating something that is likely impossible. It means we shouldn’t put too much stock in our desired outcome – we would expire if we held our breath waiting for it. It is too great a thing to hope for. We should just continue breathing normally and set our sights a little lower.
As sojourners bound for heaven, our walk on earth is only possible because of hope.
Now we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal home in heaven, which is not made by human hands. In fact, the reason we groan is that we long to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven. 2 Corinthians 5:1-2
We live in constant anticipation of a better future – waiting eagerly for when our Lord will take us home to where we really belong. That is the long term picture, the “someday” that we are marching toward, however blind and directionless we might feel on any given day.
Jesus wants you to know that you shouldn’t hold your breath – but instead of a cynical sense of realism, we can breathe normally because of a second promise. This one is much more immediate. It is no less certain than the sure hope of heaven, but it is a promise about right now, this minute, this heartbeat.
In fact, as many promises as God has made, they have always been “Yes” in him. For that reason we also say “Amen” through him to the glory of God. God is the one who makes both us and you to be strong in Christ. He anointed us. He sealed us as his own and gave us the Spirit as the down payment in our hearts. 2 Corinthians 1:20-22
Exhale. Let it go. There’s no need to hold your breath. We are not aiming too high when we hope for rest in Christ. We are not asking too much to be held by Him as we stumble through our daily trials. Every “Come to me” and “comfort, my people” and “learn from me” and “peace be with you” that the Lord has said to us is a “Yes,” right now. We have him next to us, actively holding onto us even when we can’t grip a thing. We belong to him in the here and now just as certainly as we will in eternity.
The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17
While we look toward what is ahead, we don’t need to wait to be near to God. We’re not blundering and flailing, holding our breath for Him to come and snatch us up at the last second. He’s been here with us all along.