Jim* is a man who lives in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He recently reached out to the FamilyLife team in South Africa for marriage mentoring because he felt ignored by his wife, Betty*. She had been giving him the silent treatment for six weeks. Jim expressed sorrow that his wife of twenty years would not read the Bible with him or talk about their issues.

Jim was adamant that he did not believe in divorce. “I do not believe divorce is the answer at all and we need to somehow find a way to work this out,” he said.

As the team got to know Jim and his spiritual background, they learned that he had renewed his commitment to Jesus Christ and was sure of his salvation. They felt the best way to guide him was to help him know how to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to practice spiritual breathing.

What is spiritual breathing? “God’s unhindered influence on our lives involves continual confession and surrender. Spiritual breathing is a metaphor used to describe this. We ‘exhale’ by confessing our sin. Confession is agreeing with God about our sin and thanking him for his forgiveness. We then ‘inhale’ by surrendering afresh to God. Surrender is yielding control of our lives to God and relying on the Holy Spirit to lead and empower us” (cru.org). 

This simple, daily practice of confessing sin and surrendering to the Holy Spirit’s authority in our lives has become a life-changing habit for Christians worldwide – and it deeply influenced Jim as well.

For a while, Jim practiced surrendering to the Holy Spirit and simply loved his wife unconditionally without any noticeable reciprocation. An early update he sent to the FamilyLife team said, “Hi, I am getting there day by day with spiritual breathing; it’s hard sometimes when my feelings react. I keep praying and asking God to fill me and guide me.”

A follow-up report showed significant progress: “This last week has been a huge eye opener for me as prayers get answered. Betty is talking to me again. I feel that it is largely due to the suggestions you have made and the way [God] is working in my own heart and in Betty’s heart.”

A final update from Jim was full of hope for the future: “We are getting better and better every day!”

The FamilyLife team was pleased with Jim’s willingness to take steps in his own spiritual walk to help his marriage thrive. “Few people we have worked with have had such a great desire to trust the Lord for healing in his marriage and to work on it.”

The concept of spiritual breathing is outlined in Dr Bill Bright’s booklet “How You Can Walk in the Spirit.” It remains a basic truth every follower of Christ can apply to live a fulfilling life and to create a spiritually vibrant marriage.

*Names have been changed