A few years ago I embarked on a 40 day food fast. I began the fast with a motive of calming fears and anxieties but ended it learning even more than that.
I drank mostly water and fruit juice, some almond milk, and some light broth. It was definitely a test. Physical hunger pangs only happened during the first three days. After that, my body didn’t seem to want solid food anymore. But that doesn’t mean it was easy. After the first three days, I still had to deal with the habit of wanting food at mealtime and emotional hunger.
During Lent, it’s a good time to think about what God desires when we fast. Jesus did call us to fast at times, even though he didn’t say that it had to be during the Lenten period. He also told us to not be obvious when we’re fasting. In other words, don’t go around bragging about the fast or speaking about it in order to get pity. When you give something up, let it be so that the Lord can teach you something, not so that you can boast or draw attention to yourself in any way. So, I hope that sharing my experience isn’t boasting but rather sharing what I learned in order to help others.
1. Lasting Sustenance
Going without solid food taught me to look to God for my strength and sustenance. Most importantly though, it taught me to look to God for my emotional sustenance. This is probably the biggest reason that God does want us to fast from time to time—so that we learn to look to the One who can help us in all situations instead of looking toward something else that can only help momentarily.
2. A Humble Spirit
Fasting, whether it is all food or just certain things, should cause me to look within myself. Look within to what motivates me to do things. Pay attention to what causes me to quarrel and argue with other people. Notice what brings me disharmony. Usually what causes a lack of peace in my spirit is my own unsatisfied wants. A humbler spirit should be the result of a time of fasting. A spirit that puts God’s will above my own where it should be and places what other people need ahead of my own wants.
3. An Other-Focused Mentality
Loving and seeking to understand other people is the second greatest commandment. Changing my thinking and my ways to seek to put others’ needs ahead of my own not only helps those people but it also helps me. When I work to heal other people’s wounds, my own wounds are also healed by God. I think this is one of those glorious mysteries of God’s ways. Maybe love brings with it a healing balm?
4. Be Still and Know
During those 40 days, the Lord did indeed restore my strength. At times I felt even more energy than when I was eating regularly. I think this is because when I would think of food, my mind would switch to prayer instead. And prayer seemed to restore me even more than food. Psalm 42:1 took on a new meaning—as a deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.
5. Grace & Weakness
My pride urged me to leave this paragraph out of the article. There were actually three different times, somewhere in the middle of the fast, that I fell off of the wagon. I had some pieces of cut up fruit when I met some friends for lunch one day. At a party, I ate a couple of appetizers. And another time, I drank some diet cola. Three times I messed up. Just like Peter, I felt like I denied the Lord three times. But…again just like Peter…I repented and was given grace and mercy. My mistakes make me love a merciful Savior even more.
On the 41st day, I began to eat solid foods again and I was filled with gratefulness because God had shown me his amazing grace. God’s grace and power enabled me to finish that endeavor feeling full.
Do you need a fresh infusion of grace? Do you want to realize more of God’s Spirit? Do you want to feel more joy? A fast of any length of something that means something to you can help. God shines his light on why you feel you need that thing. Your heart will change because he’ll shine a spotlight on your motives.
Then you will take delight in the Almighty and look up to God (Job 22:26).
Jennifer Heeren loves to write and wants to live in such a way that people are encouraged by her writing and her attitude. She loves to write things that bring people hope and encouragement. Her cup is always at least half-full, even when circumstances aren’t ideal. She regularly contributes to Crosswalk.com. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband. Visit her at www.jenniferheeren.com.
Publication date: March 10, 2015