Have you ever noticed how often you sigh? I’ve been paying attention lately and I tend to sigh quite often. Now I’m not talking about frequent shortness of breath concerns related to a respiratory dysfunction. Mine are pretty run-of-the-mill sighs, but sighs nonetheless.
I turn at a light going home from work and find traffic is backed up for miles. Sigh. I remember I haven’t prayed yet for my friend who needs a car. Sigh. I finish folding the last of the laundry only to find a dirty shirt in the hamper. Sigh. I hear the news journalist tell of thousands displaced in the northeast following Superstorm Sandy – in need of warm clothes. Sigh. I get my cereal bowl all ready then find we’re out of milk. Sigh. I read in the Compassion magazine about those who pray for one meal in a day. Sigh. I step on the scale after a week of regular exercise and find nothing has changed. Sigh. I get a text from a dear friend asking for prayer – she’s having a miscarriage. Sigh.
Some sighs surprise me. Really? That little disturbance in my day brought on a sigh? Others go so deep, I can’t even see where they bubble up from beneath. Every sigh is different. Some definitions of “sigh” include: to take a deep audible breath (as in weariness, sadness or relief); grieve, yearn, mourn; to have an earnest wish to own or enjoy. Related words include: ache, covet, crave, die (for), hanker (for or after), hunger, itch, long, pant, pine, thirst, and so forth. All that in a “sigh”?
Scientists have shown that a sigh occurs as a sort of reset button for our breathing patterns. In times of stress, when breathing is less variable, a sigh can reset the respiratory system and loosen the lung's air sacs which may be accompanied by a sensation of relief. In fact, they tested this theory on patients with ventilators – just added some sigh breaths, and some say it helps people feel better.
Some psychologists say sighing in general is a signal of an unexpressed feeling, most commonly exasperation. It could also be anger. Or depression. Or anxiety, irritation, disgust, resignation, dismay, impatience or exhaustion. Studies show men tend to sigh more quietly than women, and women follow with short expressions in words. (Big surprise!) Points are taken off for sighing in academic debates, since signs of disapproval during an opponent’s turn are unfair and discourteous. Sighing can also be used to convey a sense of superiority, or used to manipulate others. But sighs can be a form of positive self-expression as well, portraying love or homesickness, compassion, and many other things. One voice teacher says a sigh is "a passage between the conscious and unconscious experience." He suggests his acting students sigh deeply to get them to break their normal habits of responding and find other ways that might be appropriate to the character they are trying to portray.
I’m all for breaking my habits of responding to life’s stresses, in exchange for finding other ways that are more in line with my nature as a daughter of God! If only sighing was all it took!
I wondered over this profound assessment of my common “sighs” and decided to ask myself during a day what was going unexpressed when I gave way to a sigh, and my findings astonished me. The range of unexpressed doubts, fears, beliefs, hopes, longings and emotions connected to my soul’s deepest cries were churning below those little iceberg tip sighs. None of us could function well in a day if we had to live consciously aware of all that stirs in our souls constantly! My little sighs were gateways to deep places – places where God wants to dwell.
King David (a man accustomed to sighing) wrote in Psalm 5:1-3, “Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to You I pray. In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation.”
Today is Election Day, so I am shaping these words with no knowledge of who will be our President tomorrow. Sigh. Uncertainties give way to my sighing faster than anything. God, though, considers my sighing. To “consider” something is to think about it carefully especially with regard to taking action. He cares. He knows, He hears, and God – El Roi – sees. And He will take action! Whatever the ache of our soul, God is the only One who can soothe it. Whatever the hunger, only He can satisfy. No candidate can do that for me in the morning. No matter who the president is, I will continue to sigh on this side of eternity, and God considers my sighing. He considers yours too sister! He has already responded by sending His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die in payment for the penalty of our sins. Then He raised Him from the dead so we could also live eternally with Him! Sigh!
If you haven’t heard Pastor Tom’s series God, Government and Me – it’s excellent and will be available soon in a CD album. Add it to a gift basket for a college or grad student – just don’t forget the cocoa with marshmallows! Also, people are in great need due to hurricane Sandy. Sigh. If you are looking for a solid place to which you can donate, we recommend Samaritan’s Purse. They are also organizing volunteers who can go and serve.
So, need to sigh? Breathe in. Breathe out. Now remember: Jesus is alive! And He is at work...
Posted on Wed, November 7, 2012
by Heather Yates