The Forgotten Discipline
Frasier once said,
"If less is more, then how much more would more be."
No phrase sums up our consumer culture better. We live in a land of plenty and despise experiences of emptiness.
Should we be surprised that fasting has fallen on hard times?
We need this forgotten discipline now more than ever, yet it's the farthest thing from most of our minds.
Let's look at a few reasons why we would do well to practice fasting.
1. Fasting as Resistance
Fasting embraces emptiness in a culture of excess.
It doesn't take much to see our excess — too much food, drink, Netflix, too much social media, too much you-fill-in-the-blank.
Fasting levels the scales and puts our lives in balance. It exposes our disproportionate desires. It reveals how we rarely hunger for God's excellent cuisine (Isaiah 55:1) because we fill our stomachs with fast food.
We resist consumerism through the self-denial of fasting, and regular fasting can change our tastebuds to desire what's lasting (Psalm 34:8; John 4:34).
2. Fasting as a Grief Ritual
In his fascinating book, The Wild Edge of Sorrow, Francis Weller points out that every culture — except ours — utilizes grief rituals and offers support for the grieving.
As Weller puts it, we don't possess practices to digest grief in healthy ways. The result wreaks havoc on our minds, bodies, and souls.
The Bible is no stranger to grief rituals. When tragedy strikes, biblical figures tear their garments, toss dirt on their heads, and fast.
Their empty stomach mirrors the emptiness of their heart. Fasting, then, is a practice that reminds us of our embodied souls. And as a practice, it can help us digest the grief we carry.
3. Fasting as Training
A lack of food typically results in weakness, not strength. However, fasting is different. When we deny ourselves food (or any experience we crave), we strengthen our self-control muscle.
Those who struggle with addictive behavior (addictions to sex, food, social media, flattery, substances, television, sports, etc.) rarely think of fasting as a practice to help them.
Yet discipline in one area of life multiplies discipline in others.
If you find you can't control your appetites and frequently give in to them, try fasting something completely different.
Those with an out-of-control desire for sex can fast a meal. Or those prone to drink too much alcohol can fast social media. The practice grows your ability to say no to your cravings and turn to God in prayer.
Reject Christless Fasting
Okay, let me call myself out.
You can fast for the above 3 reasons without ever thinking about Jesus. While you may experience some positive results, you'll drastically miss the mark of fasting.
True fasting happens when we deny ourselves an experience and reallocate our time + energy + desire toward Jesus in prayer.
We must direct our attention to Jesus for fasting to be a delight and not drudgery. We must take the advice of Adele Calhoun when she writes,
"Taste the difference between what truly nourishes the soul — the living bread and the life-giving water — and what is simply junk food." (Source)
Friends, Jesus made us for Himself. Let's taste and see that He is good!
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