If you have been reading this blog for a really long time, then you have read some commentary at some point about what I think fasting is and what it has done in my life. One of the really fascinating things about fasting is that God doesn’t actually explain in the Bible why we should do it. Certainly in the New Testament, there are Jesus’ simple statements “when you fast…” and later “…the time will come when the Bridegroom will be taken from them. Then they will fast.” The latter of which appears in a very fascinating story in Scripture.
One of the things I like about fasting is that the Bible is so unclear about why we should do it. Though there are two thousand years of the followers of Jesus experiencing it and sharing with others what they personally experienced through fasting, as a whole the Church has not come to a consensus on what it is all about. The fuzziness of the topic in Scripture always has me interacting with fasting a little like an adventure. I do it because Jesus told me to do it and also because I believe the Holy Spirit is leading me to do it at that exact point in my journey; but I really have no idea what is about to happen or what I am going to learn. I have no idea what God is going to teach me, and the lessons always seem to come as a surprise.
This fast has been no different. The first thing that I noticed that made this fast vastly different than any other extended fast that I have been on is that I haven’t really looked forward to the end of the fast. Now I am not about to say that I enjoy not eating. I don’t enjoy hunger. My body complains, it tenses up and finds it hard to rest among many other discomforting things. The difference wasn’t that I was enjoying being hungry. The difference was that since the last time I fasted, I had actually learned to live one day at a time. The time when the hunger is going to end has lost some of its importance. What matters is what God is asking me to do today.
Now this is a big deal in the world of recovery. What it really means to “live one day at a time” is that we take the problems of each day and troubleshoot them as we go. We live on “daily bread” as Jesus directed so many times. We learn not to worry about tomorrow because tomorrow’s job is to worry about itself. It does not mean that one must literally live without commitment as I am nearly doing now financially – living in a crazy busy world of freelance in which I haven’t had a day off in what feels like ages, yet three days from now I have no idea where my work will be or how much of it I will have. That is unique to my situation but has nothing to do with living one day at a time. Commitment is important and healthy. It is godly when coupled with living one day at a time by His provision.
As I have been on this fast, I have listened to random messages about fasting. One of them described fasting as “giving up what is desirable” to accomplish something I don’t pursue through fasting. I didn’t agree with their analysis of what the end result of fasting was, but their terminology sparked a thought in me:
Fasting is giving up what is desirable to pursue the One who is desirable.
Notice I never said sinful. I think giving up sins can be a part of fasting, and I have definitely fasted sins. It has accomplished good things in my life. But we don’t have to be giving up explicit sins to create space for the pursuit of God. Sometimes getting rid of busyness is the easiest way to better pursue Him.
“God, I want to experience you more deeply than I want to eat.” is a prayer that is as much demonstrated through a fast from food as it is ever actually spoken. As is, “God, I hunger for you more than food.” Fasting is by far, hands down, the most romantic thing that I have ever done with God. To me, it is all about pursuit.
I always struggle with having a good attitude during fasts. Sometimes for the entire fast. Sometimes only for a little while. This fast has been easier because it has for the most part been lived one day at a time and sometimes even one moment at a time. It helps to not think of the pain of the future if one ever wants one’s body to rest during a fast… so I have recently learned.
I find fasting to be a wonderful heart cleanser. Sometimes it cleanses out bad attitudes. I think it has always cleansed idols from my life. The pain of the fast somehow intensifies the pain of certain idols, and God talks to me about giving them up. Most often, He deals with me about attitudes of the heart and sins like greed and lust. This fast has entirely cleaned up my media intake. Putting so much work into drawing close to God by fasting food seemed to be pointless if I was going to then drown His voice with indecent comedy and other nonsense. Somehow it seemed to hurt my heart to even turn on what I had been listening to a few weeks previously. It created more pain than the physical hunger. Do I still watch secular stuff? Absolutely. But I am filtering it better.
I think it is really vulnerable to tell you about my fasting here. After all, I don’t even know who is reading this. I know a few of you who do, and everyone else is a mystery. Thank you for being one of my mysterious readers. And if you are ever bored by your relationship with God, consider going on a fast. I hear one of the most effective ways to fast is to simply fast whatever activity is preventing you from spending daily time in Bible reading, prayer and meditation. Then you must use that time to spend time in Bible reading, prayer and meditation, of course.
So those are a few thoughts of a woman who seven short years ago thought everyone who fasted was a fool. May the never changing God continue to change me from the inside out as He transforms me into His glorious image.
How do you draw close to God? Do you ever give up what is desirable (be it a TV show, a hot bath, a trip to the spa, dinner with a friend, etc.) to pursue the One who invented desire? What in your life is worth dropping in order to pursue Him?