The Skinny on Fasting
Fasting may not be popular, but it may be exactly what we need. We live in a culture of instant video streaming and next day air shipping. We expect to get what we want fast and free. It’s no surprise that a practice that forces us to slow down and deprive us is not very popular. So why is it important?
The church grows in persecution. It always has and always will. There is something about suffering that causes the church to shift gears from coast to overdrive. It is important to note that God doesn’t cause persecution. Can any of us imagine a good dad who intentionally designs for his children to get tortured or murdered. However, God does use persecution to bring about growth and that’s amazing. There is something miraculous about the process of a tragedy releasing blessing into someone’s life. In God’s promise to bring good out of our pain and the suffering that comes our way, we discover new ways to connect with God. Fasting feeds off of this principle.
Fasting is simply self-persecution. We intentionally deprive ourselves of something for the sake of growing spiritually. This seems simple, and it is. Simple doesn’t mean easy. Despite fasting being simple, it can be done wrong. So here are some important steps in fasting.
First, if you’re fasting food or sleep or anything else related to your health you should see your doctor. That’s not a lame, litigious escape clause. Adjusting your health is a big deal; the bigger the adjustment, the bigger the risk. If you do choose to do a significant fast, setup a support team before starting. This team needs to have people who will support you in your fast but also have the power to pull the plug if you get into a dangerous scenario. Having a doctor or qualified health professional evaluate you often in your fast isn’t a bad idea.
Second, the point of fasting is to give up something you will miss. Make sure you pick something that will remind you often that you are missing out. If you’re fasting and you don’t notice that you’re fasting, you’re not fasting! Fasting doesn’t need to be food related. You can social media, internet, television, or a favorite hobby. Fasting can also be a specific food like fasting from desserts or coffee. Fasting can also be a diet like putting yourself on the Daniel Fast or Low Fod Map diet. Whatever it is, it should challenge you... daily!
Third, spend more time with God. This season is supposed to pull you closer to God. So create extra time to read your Bible, pray, and do the other means of grace (ways God helps us grow). In addition to creating space for God to move, create expectation. God will use this time to transform you. Anticipate the transformation!
Fourth, leverage your cravings. When your cravings hit, use the craving as a reminder to go to God right then and pray. The narrative of your heart should be “God I love you more than this thing I’m fasting. Draw near to me.” The absolute wrong way to fast is to impatiently desire the end of your fast. You can ruin your fast and miss what God wants to do in your life if you are always wishing you weren’t fasting. Your pain and cravings are actually your best asset in your fast.
Fifth, don’t tell anyone. You’re not fasting to make people think you’re extra holy. Fasting can and should be an intimate time with God. This is a little contradictory to my first advice to you of building a support team, which illustrates that this is about your heart, not a rule. You will need to tell some people you’re fasting. There will also be others who figure it out. It will be weird if they ask you why you’re not eating and you lie or dodge their question. In my experience, I tried avoiding situations where people would find out I was fasting and I would rarely offer up the fact that I was fasting, but if people asked I would respond simply and quickly. I was happy to share about what fasting was and how they could fast, but I wouldn’t talk about my fast unless they asked. I think that God wants your heart to keep fasting something between you as Him. I also don’t think He wants you to lie about it or become awkward in how you’re talking. Be honest and humble and concise. Most people will respect your privacy and usually ask generic questions designed to help them grow, not spoil your experience.
Last, if you don’t meet your goal and quit early, don’t beat yourself up. God loves us trying to draw close to Him. It’s the not caring about our relationship with God that makes Him vomit. After all, the ways in which we grow spiritually are practices not performances! Practicing means sometimes you succeed and probably more common, we fail. But failure isn’t defeat, it’s learning. Our success is in our obedience, not the outcome of our obedience.
So fast on.