When some people hear I practice the discipline of fasting, they act amazed.
I don’t tell them to communicate, “Look at me; I’m so special,” but because I want them to stop offering me food and feeling bad that I won’t say “yes.” Other times I want them to try fasting.
“I could never…” “That seems impossible,” “I just don’t have that kind of willpower,” are some comments I receive–even from Christians.
A part of me agrees with them. I could never, it is impossible, and I don’t have that kind of willpower.
But fasting is something God calls me to, and He gives me the strength to accomplish it. I say “yes” because I love the benefits. He doesn’t call me to fast to punish me, but to bless me.
Sometimes God calls me to a liquid fast (with no-sugar liquids) once a week when I am battling gluttony–the more ugly name for overeating. Along with other benefits, this breaks my preoccupation with food.
Some of the blessings I receive are: feeling in tune with God, feeling closer to Him than ever, hearing Him more clearly, knowing with greater certainty what He wants me to do with the rest of my life and so much more.
Lately our Bible study teacher challenged us to a 21-day fast. Although I’ve done longer than one day liquid fasts, I felt led instead to fast from everything sweet–sugars, candy, bakery, fruits, sweet dressings and sauces. I also have turned from bread products, potatoes, rice, and pasta. These are the foods I tend to turn to instead of prayer when I feel stressed.
During the fast along with praying and studying my Bible, I’ve been taking time to be quiet before God, demanding nothing and listening to what He has to say to me. I keep a journal for these listening times.
Some days I just feel blanketed in His peace, and He speaks words of comfort and courage. Other days He has revealed hidden things in my heart like hidden fears, bitterness, and hurts. He also gives me corrections and instructions.
As I fast, I see how attached to sweets I still am. I may not be eating them, but I find myself daydreaming about them. At times it’s like a best friend has died, and I’m grieving.
I don’t think God hates that I love sweets. It’s just that I have the problem of turning to them instead of to Him. This habit started when I was a small child. When my life wasn’t going well, I turned to sweets.
Fasting from sweets gives me a sense that they don’t have power over me any longer. I can say “no” to them for a time. I feel free.
I am more than halfway finished with my 21-day fast, and I look forward to all God has for me in the days ahead.
Since I’m not looking to food for sweetness during these days, but seeking God more diligently, I can experience the sweetness that comes from Him. I can do what the Word urges:
Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8 NIV
How about you? Have you discovered the spiritual benefits of fasting? Are you ready to start? Ask God to lead you in this discipline. It will help move you closer to having a heart set free. (See Psalm 119:32 NIV)