Fasting — What Is It Good For?
When my co-workers learned it was my birthday, they asked if they could take me out to lunch. Unfortunately, I had to turn them down because I was in the middle of a multi-day fast.
They asked some great questions. When did I start? How long would I fast for? Why was I fasting?
Recently, a new year had begun and the previous year had been fraught with bumps and bruises. Both my brother-in-law and my mother-in-law had passed away. My daughter faced chronic health problems that needed both natural and supernatural intervention. I had given ground to the all-too-familiar feeling of fear, and I felt my heart growing cold. For those reasons, I entered into a fast.
People throughout history have fasted, a practice of abstaining from solid food and only drinking liquids, in order to slow down, quiet the noise of the culture around them, and take the time and space to listen and reflect.
Fasting allows Christians to turn their hearts toward God. When people fast in community, it can cause those Christians to experience a freshening of their faith as a group. But this freshening of faith, sometimes called revival, starts on a personal level.
In the midst of living in a broken world, I desperately need to see the face and hear the voice of my heavenly Father. I give up physical food, so I can receive spiritual nourishment.
So does it work? How do you know if you’re “doing it right?”
When I fast, focus on a passage of scripture and journal my thoughts. I invite the Holy Spirit to do what He has promised to do:
- Lead me into truth: Sometimes the Holy Spirit reminds me what’s true about God and about my relationship with Him. How does God’s truth change the way I see the events of my life?
- Convict me of my sins: Sin is any action or attitude that doesn’t please God. Someone once told me it’s how I act when I meet my needs my way instead of trusting God to meet my needs His way. I ask God to show me how I’ve done this.
- Comfort me with His presence: Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Comforter, the One He would send because He went to the Father. It’s painful when I see how I let the pressures of life to push in on me to the point where I trusted my wits instead of trusting my heavenly Father.
- Give me wisdom: When I search desperately for the courage to make difficult decisions, I hear the gentle voice of God leading me into the truth of what I have to do and checking my motives.
Those moments when I see truth for what it really is, when I understand just how far short of God’s standard I’ve come, I’m devastated. The Holy Spirit gently leads me to the cross where I tell God how truly sorry I am for the damage I’ve done, and I ask Him to forgive me. He gently leads me to Christ’s empty tomb where I ask Him to change my heart so I won’t do it again.
Sometimes this leads to difficult conversations, where I have to find the courage to tell people things they don’t want to hear. Other times, I have to ask people to forgive me for my unkind words and actions. At times those conversations go well. Other times they don’t. Regardless of the outcome, I live for an audience of one; that’s my heavenly Father. As long as He’s pleased, I’m satisfied.
So what does fasting actually accomplish? This spiritual discipline is a physical way for me to slow down, tell God how much I need Him, listen to what He has to say, and then act on how He leads me. He revives my heart, clears my head and gives me the courage to face living in a broken world.