My church – Foothills Fellowship – is currently involved in a four-week fast. No, we’re not going without food for 28 straight days; that might be considered borderline cultish…and really hard to do. What we’re doing is asking as many people in the church who are able to go without food for 24-hours once a week for the next four weeks, and to be honest, I’m not really looking forward to it….because I love food.
Eating is one of the highlights of my day. I wake up…and eat. Around noon…I eat. After work…I eat. Before bed…I snack (which is probably why I’m not as skinny as I used to be). I follow this routine every single day, and quite frankly, I dig it! Interrupting this routine is not enjoyable – unless it’s adding to the routine (as in an afternoon snack) – and it seems like when I fast, the passing of time does not live up to the name of the exercise in which I’m participating.
As much as it pains me to break my beloved routine, I know that it’s spiritually good for me, and it’s good for us as a church to do this together as we embark on the implementation of our amended constitution and as we select a new batch of elders to lead us. John Piper, a pastor and well-respected author wrote an entire book on the topic of fasting called, A Hunger for God. In it, he says this…
Christian fasting is a test to see what desires control us. What are our bottom-line passions? More than any other discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside of us with food and other things.
Psychologically, that sort of thing is spoken of a lot today, especially in regard to people who have much pain in their lives. We would say they ‘medicate’ their pain with food. They anesthetize themselves to the hurt inside by eating. But this is not some rare, technical syndrome. All of us do it. Everybody. No exceptions. We all ease our discomfort using food and cover our unhappiness by setting our eyes on dinnertime. Which is why fasting exposes all of us – our pain, our pride, our anger.
One of the reasons for fasting is to know what is in us. In fasting it will come out. You will see it. And you will have to deal with it or quickly smother it again. When mid-morning comes and you want food so badly that the thought of lunch becomes as sweet as a summer vacation, then suddenly you realize, “Oh, I forgot, I made a commitment. I can’t have that pleasure. I’m fasting for lunch too.” Then what are you going to do with all the unhappiness inside? Formerly, you blocked it out with the hope of a tasty lunch. The hope of food gave you the good feelings to balance out the bad feelings. But now the balance is off. You must find another way to deal with it.
Throughout the day that I’m fasting, the way that I deal with the hunger pangs, the headache, the sometimes overwhelming desire for food, and a mushrooming bad attitude is to pray. Whenever I feel hunger and am consumed with thoughts of eating, I pray. I ask God to help me to hunger for Him like I hunger for food. Whenever I feel my head throbbing and entertain the desire to bite off someone else’s head for no reason, I pray. I ask God to forgive me for my sin, and I thank Him for the suffering of Jesus on my behalf.
And when the 24-hour period is over, I feast…and pray, thanking God for providing daily for me and for allowing me to grow a bit closer to Him through the slow hours of fasting.