The Mystery of Fasting
Fasting, after falling out of favor, is being reclaimed as a viable spiritual discipline. While I admit to regularly fasting, I also admit to being regularly perplexed by its practice.
Fasting is simply going without something (usually food) for a time to draw closer to God. When I fast, this does happen, but I’m not sure why. In a theoretical sense, when I fast, my craving for food (a physical need) heightens my craving for God (a spiritual need). While I comprehend this, it explains little.
My fasts are from food, usually for 24 hours; I endeavor to do this weekly. Occasionally God has told me to cut my fast short and a few times he has prompted me to extend it (and once or twice, I bailed midway through). When I fast, the times I would normally spend preparing and eating a meal are reallocated to spiritual activities, such as praying, meditating, journaling, or simply listening. At times this is an effort, but usually it is a significant spiritual experience. As such, I generally approach my weekly fast with joyful expectation.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned about fasting over the years:
- Fasting is not about earning spiritual Brownie points; it is not about manipulating God or getting his attention.
- Fasting is best done with little fanfare and not to gain the “respect” of others. I only let people know I am fasting if it will be an encouragement to them (which is why I’m blogging about it) or to explain why I’m not eating when they are.
- For me, fasting also has side benefits (I am more productive when I fast and I lose weight), but whenever the side benefits become the focal point, the fast loses its spiritual power.
- The hardest part of my fast is ending it well; that is, not overeating at its conclusion.
Despite my frequency of fasting and the significant spiritual aspect, it is still largely a mystery to me. Nevertheless, I will persist in it because it more fully connects me to God than when I don’t fast.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of manmade traditions and practices. Read more in his blog, books, and personal weekly email updates.
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