Why I fasted... and why you should too
I don't know how familiar you are with the concept of fasting. My experience was rather limited, given my upbringing in American culture, where we want our food, and we want it now.
I remember my first experience fasting, a 24-hour challenge given at a Bible Camp where I was employed as a 19 year old. The fast was a mandatory time to prepare for summer campers. You guys... it was WEIRD. It was set up to be ultra-spiritual. I felt out of place, that I didn't quite belong on the same spiritual tier as my peers. Although I never felt hungry, I did find plenty of space in my schedule to focus on prayer. All in all, it was effective. However, it was a "one and done" situation for me. I chalked it up as an experience and moved along with my life.
Fast forward to the late 2010s, when my employment at New Anthem Church began. I was expected to participate in the fast, as I should be practicing what I encourage others to do. My first time I chose to do a partial fast and abstain from chocolate. During my second attempt, Pastor Landon challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and do a full fast, which I did for 3 days. These may seem very different from each other, but God showed up in big ways through each.
For my partial fast, I chose to skip the chocolate. As one of my friends teased me, "oh, how cute! You're giving up something easy." BUT... BUT... giving up chocolate was not easy. At all. I had a habit of reaching for chocolate for breakfast (hello fiber one bars), lunch (Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel), and the occasional post supper bowl of ice cream. I don't have a sweet tooth, I have sweet teeth. A sweet jaw. Choosing to give up chocolate was very difficult, and God spoke in a very real and tangible way to me. Whenever I wanted to grab a chocolate, I chose to pray. And as I prayed, I recognized that chocolate was a coping mechanism. If I was stressed, I reached for the sweets. If I was tired or overwhelmed, hello, ice cream! In those three weeks, I learned to turn to Christ, instead of sweets, for sustinance.
Last year was my first full fast. I chose three days, because 1) it was my first time, and 2) I was still living an active lifestyle. I had to strategically plan my work day and exercise load around the lack of food in my diet. Three days was all I could handle. To be honest, I never felt hungry even though I successfully went three days with just water. Instead, I was weak. Exhausted, actually. I had problems sleeping. And in those moments of journaling on my couch at 3am, God opened my heart. My sins were exposed. I felt vulnerable, and more important, repentant. God broke down my pride, bitterness, arrogance, and faulty thinking. I enjoyed a deep sense of intimacy with my Savior through this experience.
Why am I sharing all this with you? What's the point of fasting?
Please remember, Christian fasting isn't some kind of a "work" that's commanded by Christ or required by Scripture. However, it is a recommended part of our spiritual growth. The Book of Acts records believers fasting before they made important decisions (Acts 13:4; 14:23). Fasting and prayer are often linked together (Luke 2:37; 5:33).
The purpose of fasting is to take our eyes off the things of this world, and instead, focus on God. Fasting is a way to demonstrate to God and to ourselves that we are serious about our relationship with Him. If you're intentional about growing your relationship with God, pray. Fast. My personal experience showed me that eliminating something from my routine helped me rely on Christ and draw nearer to Him in my moments of weakness.
In order for you to be successful in your fast, here are a few tips I picked up:
- Start simple. If you've never fasted before, don't start with a 7-day fast. Try 24 hours, or 2-3 days. Choose a partial fast. Anything you try is better than not trying at all.
- Don't go it alone. Ask a spouse, sibling, or close friend to hold you accountable. Participate with your Surge Group at New Anthem. Find someone to call or text routinely throughout the day. I had two friends (thank you, Laura Jordan and Tina Montonye), who checked in with me throughout the experience and lifted me up in prayer.
- Have your Bible and journal handy at all times. You never know when your moments of weakness will strike!
- Don't just focus on what you're removing, focus on what you're gaining. Listen to your body. LISTEN to God. Journal your prayers. Most importantly, turn to God in your suffering. Go to him with your struggles, and wait in His presence. He provides!
Have you fasted? Are you interested in fasting? Make 2020 a year to jump start your relationship with Christ. Pray for real life change. Pursue Jesus!