A Different Kind of Fasting

Thinning our lives to thicken our communion with God
A Different Kind of Fasting
Image: JAN FAUKNER / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

The mounting anticipation surprised me. Placing my hand upon the heavy wooden door, I opened it, stepped inside, and stood still. An invitation sounded in my soul. This was unexpected . . . and this was holy. Suddenly, the tiny stone-floored chapel became a sanctuary for me.

Though the chapel was empty, I was not alone. Slowly, I walked toward the cross and sat down on the front pew. With journal in hand, my very first fast commenced.

Questions had taken me there. But it was love that would keep me there. What occurred through my fasting Friday upon Friday, month upon month, captivated me. My hunger for answers waned as my hunger for God grew.

Through fasting, God fed my love for him. Over time, fasting transitioned from an answer-quest to a soul-feast.

Fasting Seeks God, Not Answers

In the beginning, each weekly luncheon fast began with a question: “God, what is my next step?” The question pounded loudly in my heart and in my head. But within a month, the question quieted. Perhaps the greatest—and most glorious—shock during that year was how direction decreased in importance to me.

Through the fast, Jesus won my heart at new depths. Waiting upon him shifted from a strenuous but necessary prelude to the love-thick main event.

Yes, I did emerge from that season knowing the next step for my future, but it came at me sideways, more as a gift than as the object of pursuit. As I focused on worshiping my eternal God instead of being stressed over my temporal needs, and as I invested in thoughtful reading of his Word, some desires naturally became lighter while others gained weight. It seemed as though God were placing his hand upon the latter and lodging them deeply, like anchors, within my soul.

Fasting Is Motivated by Love

Decades later, fasting is a staple in my spiritual diet. And I’ve learned that in order to address fasting, I must first address love. Why? Because fasting is a spiritual discipline, and spiritual disciplines are holy only when their inspiration and destination is love for God.

Certainly fasting—a discipline of decrease and self-denial—can have physical benefits whether or not it is motivated by love. But only love can transform disciplines into worship. Without love, disciplines are dead: measurable but not meaningful to God.

Fasting done for any reason less than love for God will result in something far less than worship. In the same way that self cannot satisfy self regardless of how often it feasts, self cannot starve self regardless of how frequently it fasts. Only love can make fasting spiritually fruitful. Without love, fasting will quickly descend into an arrogant form of asceticism, a bumbling attempt at bribery, or sheer frustration. And that kind of fast will not be acceptable to God.

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Fasting; Lent; Love
Today's Christian Woman, February 3, 2016
Posted February 3, 2016

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