Updated: Jan 9, 2019
By Dr. Stephen Phinney
Exchanging Life Publishers 2018©
Do you ever feel like you are suffocating?
Most of my life I struggled with fears – rejection, isolation, being misunderstood, and the worst, fear of suffocation. I worked to hide these phobias by being over-confident and being an achiever. The results were, people either put me on a pedestal or worked to kick me off. Then it happened! Keith Fredrickson laid his hand on me and prayed. He prayed that I would no longer use fear as an excuse to block the Holy Spirit from being released in my weaknesses. Within a split second warmth flowed through his hand, into my body – like being coated in warm oil. I have been free since that day.
Another day, years later, on a spiritual retreat at our friend's condo, another corner-post was placed in my life. The Lord said to me in my agonizing prayer time, “Who do you say I am?” Without hesitation I said, “You are the Way, the Truth & the Life.” He told me to pick up my pen and write in terms of identity. I put the pen to the paper and wrote His words to me, “My identity is the Method, My identity is the Truth & My identity is My Life.” Within moments I heard Him say, “Your ministry is your life & your life is to be My identity.”
These two events changed my view of myself and His ministry within me from that day forward. Even though my preaching on this revelation has brought betrayal in all forms, I have kept my commitment to Him in proclaiming that the believer’s life is their ministry in Christ. It’s why we’re here! But, I had a problem. My fear of suffocation remained.
As many of our readers know by now, through my wife's faithful updates, my blood tests came back revealing anemia & high counts of albumin. Even though I am not predicting a diagnosis, the following analogy came as a lesson!
The increase of albumin is typically caused by acute infections, and/or stress from an over worked heart. Anemia results from a lack of oxygen to the red blood cells in the body. This leads to reduced oxygen flow to the body's organs, resulting in the heart overworking to compensate. The Mayo Clinic site said, you basically suffocate from the inside out. It was this statement that clearly described how I felt.
It’s been stated that suffocation is the worst form of cause-of-death. Even though this statement is debatable, I can tell you it’s the most common complaint in Christendom. Allow me to explain.
The Holy Spirit is often paralleled to oxygen. In fact, Holy Spirit means breath of God. For illustrative purposes, let’s assume that red blood cells are like the soul (mind, will & emotions), albumin is as the flesh, and infections are an overload of worldly thoughts. When you connect the dots of said illustration, you have this diagnosis:
Spiritual Hypoxemia: The increase, or high-levels, of flesh - caused by an acute buildup of worldly thoughts (infections). This causes the heart of man to be overworked. High levels of flesh cause the soul of man to lack in releasing the breath of God, the Holy Spirit within the believer, resulting in spiritual anemia. Spiritual anemia is the lack of the Breath of God supplying the heart of man with the needed life-source. Spiritual anemia causes the heart of man to enlarge, resulting in suffocating from the inside out.
Call me strange but this is how my mind works. After my mind connected these dots, I felt like Daniel; So, I was left alone and saw this great vision; yet no strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength. (Daniel 10:8) Unusual as it sounds, this is how my beloved wife described the way I have been looking these days.
I, like Paul, get the reality of, Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:28) Here lies my demise. The older I get, the more I realize the weaker I am. The less I know and the bigger my burden for the people of God.
How can a righteous God allow such suffocation?
How can a loving God allow the enemy to torture His children with despair and emotional suffocation? Why do righteous people suffer, when they diligently worked to seek His divine will? To top it off, why does God allow the ungodly to prosper? My all-time favorite is, are adversity and affliction a sign that a suffering Christian has unconfessed sin?
I, like many, have suffered my own measurement of troubles – the type of troubles that bring heartache, physical challenges and emotional ramifications. But the most difficult of all suffering has been the constant feeling of suffocation caused by the unmerciful criticism of fellow Body members. The source that God typically uses to breathe life into ministers of the Gospel, is being used today by the enemy to suffocate – like a pillow being put over our faces. Even though I know the error of this dogmatism, and understand why self-proclaimed Christians act in such a manner, I am often led into the demise of spiritual heart-failure. The irony, the more leaders share their personal pain, the more suffocation occurs. I am left with one single act of foolishness – to brag.
If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.
My all-time spiritual hero, outside of Jesus, is the apostle Paul. Most days, I am so weak I can barely get my hands to the keyboard, let alone release the Holy Spirit’s inspirations to write. Despair constantly knocks at my door as I front daily exhaustion, skin rashes over my entire body, looking pale, edema and other symptoms not worth mentioning. Beyond such external things, I carry the burden of the Post-Truth church. Here are a few words from my mentor:
Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also. For you, being so wise, tolerate the foolish gladly. For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face. To my shame I must say that we have been weak by comparison. But in whatever respect anyone else is bold—I speak in foolishness—I am just as bold myself. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:18-28)
Is my mentor complaining? Is he trying to gain sympathy for his sufferings? Is he falling into the sin of comparison? Or, is he stating a Truth that is beyond human understanding?
Now, I am a firm believer in declaring all afflictions are allowed by our loving God in order to purify us. But, what is Paul’s objective in revealing his vulnerabilities/weaknesses?
Here is what the Lord showed me:
Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 12:1)
For me, this is where the rubber hits the road. Bottomline question is, am I willing to put the hands to the keyboard, continue with revelations of the Lord by depending on the Holy Spirit for inspirations through my weaknesses and reach a church who knows NOT of the mystery I speak?
To that I say, yes! Lord, bring on the Permissible Suffocations but, please let me breath internally through Christ. For you alone know my phobia of suffocation! Lord, I think it’s time for another nap.