5 reasons to fast
Hello 2017! Now most likely you didn't notice, but it’s January 5th and I still haven’t posted yet on the blog. In fact I failed to end the last month of celebration with a final post to sum up the month of celebration. Christmas and New Year took over and I deliberately took a break. One thing I wanted to share with you last year but there is still time is that I put together a guidebook to help you celebrate 2016 and embrace 2017 intentionally. You can get it free by signing up to the mailing list here.
This month we are looking at the spiritual discipline of fasting! I am stripping back lots of things so you won’t see me around as much on social media. I need some space from writing too so there will be less content this month. Rhythms are important and to be able to keep going with the blog and to maintain writing about spiritual disciplines during this year there need to be some quieter months! This is one!
One of my doubts when I started thinking about doing the spiritual disciplines back in August last year was the month of fasting. I wondered how I could share personally and vulnerably about fasting without actually sharing what I was fasting. I didn’t want to share blogposts about how hard I was finding it etc. and Jesus makes it quite clear that we aren’t meant to broadcast our fasts to others but instead do them as a gift to God. I decided, however, that there are some general principles and ideas I have gained from the past which I can share with you. (I do want to say this, however: I am not doing a full no-food fast. It is not what I felt God asking me to do!)
So, firstly, how do I define fasting?
I know purists who say that fasting only counts if you don’t eat anything at all; that any other ‘fasts’ are not true fasts and just a cop-out. I think that is a little like saying that unless you can complete a 10km, you are not a runner. Although most healthy people could perhaps complete a 10km race with training, that doesn’t mean that doing a regular run around the block is not a healthy routine to have. They are both still valuable. Jesus made it clear that whilst spiritual disciplines are important, and I believe that full-food fasting for a period of time, such as a day is possible for most people at certain seasons in their lives, the actual point is our heart.
So what ways can you fast?
There are lots of different ways to embrace fasting this month and I am embracing a (small!) selection of ideas like these:
- A complete food fast (water is a bare minimum, some also have fruit juice or some other liquid) anything from fasting a meal up to 40 days!
- only eating after a certain time each day, for example after 3pm, for a selected time.
- Fasting a meal a week.
- Choosing to fast certain foods (like the Daniel fast, where only fruits and vegetable were eaten, or cutting out sugar or cheese!)
- Choosing not to eat out for a certain period of time
- Choosing to only eat beans or rice for one meal a day for a week
- fasting buying non-essentials for a selected time
- Fasting a certain retail store (Target, Starbucks, Amazon, non-local business)
- Keeping to a strict limited budget for a selected time
- Fasting eating out and saving money to give away
3) Computer and phone use
- Fasting social media
- Fasting checking emails first thing in the morning, or only check them at specific times
- Fasting checking google for every piece of knowledge to allay fears instead of trusting God.
- Fasting using the internet outside work or for entertainment
- Fasting reading anything but the Bible
- Fasting Netflix / TV
- Fasting going out every evening(!)
With all of the above, the question that is more important is not the ‘what are you fasting?’ but ‘why are you fasting?’ What are the good motives to embrace a fast? What are you going to do with the space that they create?
So here are 5 reasons that fasting is worth incorporating into your life as a spiritual discipline:
1) to get rid of the extra noise in life
I don’t think I realize how noisy and busy my life is until I begin to take things out. Most of the things in my life are good things, but if you fill your life full of good things, it can also be too noisy and overwhelming. I have so many things I love to do - writing, painting, walking, singing, reading, spending time with others, doing things with the boys, gardening... that there just isn’t the time to embrace all those things all the time. I have to take seasons or limit what I do. Even with doing a little bit of each one of those things each week, things can get very noisy, very quickly. Fasting or limiting some of those things helps me get rid of excess noise and begin to slow down.
2) to strip away and get back to the essentials so we can live intentionally
As well as getting rid of the extra noise, fasting helps me to take a good look at my life and get back to the essentials. It helps me to look at different areas of my life and say ‘is this what I want to be investing time in right now?’ ‘Is this an activity that is giving me life or overwhelming me?’ ‘Is this how God wants me to be spending my time?’ ‘How can I make a meal plan in the future so what I eat is balanced and intentional?’ Having a season of stripping away, with the space it creates with God, helps me to reorder my life and be intentional about how I actually want to live it.
3) to create extra space for reading the Bible, praying and thinking
Fasting is about our motives and isn’t just about creating space for us to do whatever with, but to help us intentionally put in times or extra times for prayer, reading the Scriptures and thinking. You would be amazed at what thoughts the Holy Spirit inspires when you have time when you are not doing anything distracting. As well as fasting different things this month I am also being intentional in creating space for Bible study and prayer.
4) to highlight the idols (what idols?!)
It is very easy to say that you have no idols in your life until you try and give something up! You quickly realize where you are controlled by appetites, ambitions and approval of others when you start trying to say ‘no’ to anything! Fasting is a way of intentionally choosing to allow God to highlight those idols and to sends us on a fast track to recognizing where God is not actually number 1 in our lives.
5) to increase spiritual authority
Learning to say ‘no’ and limiting things we normally have free reign to do increases our spiritual authority. Choosing to let go of our freedom to eat whatever we want whenever we want, to use our time however we want, to buy whatever we want and submit to the Holy Spirit increases our spiritual authority, simply because we can no longer do it on our own. We realize quick that we need the Holy Spirit’s power and grace to empower us to say ‘no’ to things. It causes us to lean more on Him, and as we do, we come closer to Him and hear his voice clearer in our hearts. We learn to hear His guidance as He shows us how we can overcome and sends encouragements and blessings to us on our journey.
So what is God saying to you about fasting? Maybe take a moment to ask the Holy Spirit if there is anything He would like you to fast for a period of time. Ask Him as well what it is He would like you to embrace instead.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Please share it with anyone you think would find it helpful!
This is the first post on fasting in a month focused on the spiritual discipline of fasting. It is part of a year long embracing of grace through different spiritual disciplines. You can read more about the year here.