See if this scenario sounds familiar…. You walk into work on Ash Wednesday to notice you have coworkers who have ashes smudged on their foreheads and realize the calendar just got away from you. It’s the first day of Lent and you had a fleeting thought that you would do some fasting this year. Of course, that grande latte and cream-filled donut you just devoured didn’t fit into your idea of “fasting”.
Let’s face it, fasting is not one of those disciplines we naturally embrace. So how do we go about it with the right motivation and planning that will give God the glory and be good for our souls.
- Why should you fast? If it is your desire to be a follower of Jesus there is an expectation….please note, I did not say a command. He said, “when you fast…” (Matthew 6:16-18) He was making an assumption that a Christian would fast. Moreover, when He said these words He followed it with a bit of explanation that a fast should be personal and private. Your focus should be on your relationship with God and not on letting the world know you are fasting. “More than any other discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface. . .Fasting reminds us that we are sustained ‘by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” Richard Foster
- When do you fast? There is no wrong time to fast. If there is a stirring in your soul to do so, listen to that “still, small voice” and be obedient. For the purposes of this blog, Lent is a good time as it is centering our thoughts around the coming observance of the sacrifice of Jesus and to identify with our Suffering Savior.
- What do you fast from? What is it that you feel you really couldn’t live without (besides Jesus, that is!) Is it food, caffeine, technology, TV, sugar, criticism? What has a hold on you?
- Who do you fast for? Now, you may think this is a given…. “the answer is Jesus, right?” Yes, but let’s talk about what a fast is not. Fasting is not a hunger strike done for some political reason to gain power and it is not a “divine diet” for health reasons or in hopes to lose a few pounds.
Also, it is important to be remember some fasting misconception:
- Fasting seems like fanaticism – “the body is evil, we must deny it of everything”,
- Society’s propaganda – “we must satisfy every human appetite.”
More than any other discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface. . .Fasting reminds us that we are sustained ‘by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God Richard Foster
- How do we fast? Don’t get locked into the idea that you only get to drink water and maybe some fruit juice for all of Lent (March 6 – April 20, 2019). Unless you are a person who has fasted a great deal and for longer periods of time, this kind of thinking has disaster written all over it!
- Spend some time with God asking him how he wants you to proceed to bring him glory and optimum growth for your own spirit.
- Don’t be “boxed in” by it having to be food or extended periods of time. Maybe God is calling you to give up your Starbucks coffee once a week, or he is directing you to not watch TV during a certain hour each night. Possibly he is leading you to pare down your FaceBook viewing.
Just one last thought as we consider the subject of “Fasting 101”. Remember to give up something in order to give. Maybe you are being led to give up your weeknight viewing of Jeopardy! to do a little more reading for your own spiritual formation? How about giving up lunch once a week and spending the time in quiet meditation? Possibly your Starbucks Coffee Fund could be used for a mission project.
So, sit in God’s presence before the Lenten season and ask him to direct you in the area of fasting. With your spiritual ear attune to his voice he will direct you to what will give him the honor he so rightly deserves and it will add depth to your soul. It’s a win-win!
“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. Matthew 16:24 (LB)
written by Major Lauren Hodgson, Spiritual Life Development, USA East