How to Add Fasting to Your Spiritual Diet
I've never really been into fasting, as if it's something we can choose not to be into.
Seriously, it's never been a part of my life.
I did the Daniel fast with my roommates a couple years ago, but let's be honest, I think I was more intrigued by the nutritional aspect of it than the spiritual. Some people practice a type of fasting every year during Lent, but I grew up in a First Baptist Church, so, not surprisingly, Lent was never a part of our annual rhythm. So, 20 years into walking with Jesus, I realize I've completely ignored this discipline that he practiced frequently and commanded of his followers.
During the last few months, however, fasting has been slowly but surely making its way into my life. Chris recently preached on fasting during our series on spiritual disciplines, and our missional community group has tried to fast together once a month. (Thankfully, the husband loves fasting—he's been super intentional about leading both me and our group in it.) Needless to say, it has been quite a learning, growing, stretching experience for me.
I for sure have a love/hate relationship with fasting.
I love that it's a means of knowing Jesus more intimately, but I hate not having something I want (read: food). I don't know if there's necessarily a "right" way to fast, but when you find yourself justifying drinking chocolate milk and odwallas all day because they're filling but not technically "food," you're probably not doing it right.
Unfortunately, I think the whole point is to be hungry. I think the whole point is to feel those hunger pains and to let them remind you of the only One who can satisfy and sustain . . . to recognize I need Him more than i need food . . . to desire Him more than I crave that PB&J that I literally find myself daydreaming about while fastin.
(I'm a work in progress here, people).
Some of you may be super consistent fasters (Is that a word?), and if you are, please send me some tips. But some of you may be like I was/am—wondering why something that's all over scripture is nowhere to be found in your life. I encourage you just to think about doing it. If Jesus did it, and if Jesus said things like "When you fast . . ." (not if), it's probably a good idea to at least consider it.
A few thoughts:
- Read about it in scripture before you do it so you have an idea of why you're doing it. I didn't do this, so the first time I ever tried fasting, I was just hungry and grumpy.
- Think of it like prayer—a normal rhythm in a Christian's life, but sometimes practiced more fervently during significant times (big decisions, major life events, etc.).
- Start small. Just fast through one meal the first time you do it. Spend that time that you would be eating in prayer or scripture. Maybe you eventually fast through two meals, or all three, or multiple days in a row, but maybe you don't. It doesn't matter. No need to be legalistic about it—just be obedient to what you feel is necessary and appropriate.
- Try fasting in community. Again, our missional community has been trying to practice this together and it has made all the difference in the world. You could do it with your small group or spouse or best friend. It brings a level of accountability and solidarity to it that I wouldn't have if I were trying to do it on my own. When we do it, we try to fast through breakfast and/or lunch, then we break it together with dinner that night. I love this.
- Give yourself some grace. This one's hard for me. I always feel like I'm not doing it right or that I'm missing the point or that I could be doing it better . . . but I'm not sure if there really is a right or wrong way to do it, and I don't really know that Jesus cares.
So what do you think? If you have thoughts on fasting, any comments would be much appreciated . . . because clearly i'm still new at this.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."
- Matthew 5:6
"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever . . . for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works."
- Psalm 73:26, 28
CC Image • gifrancis on Flickr