If you have read my blog for more than a few months, then you know I have a major struggle with overeating and food addiction. I have shared in previous posts about my struggle and subsequent victories and failures (see Three Ways I Lost my Battle with Sin). Like many who struggle with any kind of addiction, I have rode the roller coaster of victory and defeat more times than I can even begin to count. At times the victories have been one of the greatest sources of joy in my life, while the failures and struggles have fueled some of my deepest seasons of guilt and shame.
A few months ago, the idea of fasting came across my plate several different ways:
- Knowing about my food struggles, my friend JP challenged to study, read and think about fasting. He pointed me to this article by the late Bill Bright while he was preparing for a Porch message from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (How to Spot Fake Christianity).
- This article from Desiring God came across my blog reader: Fasting for Beginners. Outstanding article by David Mathis.
- I had lunch with a friend who just finished a 10-day juice fast. He shared with me about his personal history with fasting.
- We read a chapter about the spiritual discipline of Fasting in a discipleship group I am co-leading. In the Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Whitney writes an entire chapter on this often misunderstood spiritual discipline. This is an excellent book, by the way!
- I learned that fasting is EXPECTED. In Matthew 6:16-17, Jesus says, “And when you fast… But when you did fast…”. Jesus assumes we will fast and still expects His followers to fast today.
- On the day this post came out, my friends at The Porch also shared a post on Fasting – check it out!
Fasting? No way! That sounds strange and extreme. For some reason, I have always had a negative stigma associated with fasting. Before I started reading and studying fasting, it sounded strange to me. If you’re interested in learning more about fasting and what the Bible says about fasting, check out these resources from Desiring God.
So What Led Me to Fast?
Honestly, I was tired of continuing to fail in my efforts to steward my body in a way that honors God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and helps make me more useful for the Master (2 Timothy 2:20-21). It was time to do something extreme and challenging that would hopefully transform my sinful relationship and obsession with food. After processing with Kristen and my community, I decided to do a 10-day juice fast for the purpose of overcoming my obsessions with food. So, for 10 days, I ate/drank nothing except for water, coffee, and fresh juice made at home in our juicer.
I just finished my fast a few days ago, and I thought it would be helpful to others to share a few lessons I learned along the way about this often misunderstood spiritual discipline. NOTE: In no way am I bragging about this fast (Matthew 6:2-4). Rather, I believe the church has a poor understanding of fasting, so this is an attempt to encourage you to consider doing something Jesus expects His followers to do. In addition, I was so encouraged by what God did during these 10 days that I think it’s worth sharing some victories!
- Fasting is a discipline of denial. I am not used to saying “no.” If I want something, I buy it. If I want to eat something, I eat it. Fasting forces you to say no to something you want. This discipline of denial reaches beyond eating to being able to say no to other temptations like lust or materialism.
- Fasting is a spiritual discipline just like reading my bible, praying or journaling. Followers of Christ often talk and share about what they learned while reading their bibles or from journaling, but for some reason we don’t fast, or if we do, we don’t talk/share about it with others. That makes no sense! Why would we elevate one spiritual discipline over another?
- Fasting gets a bad rap. For some reason we associate fasting with legalism or something only extreme people do. But, read your bibles. You’ll see fasting discussed in the same breath as prayer. As shared above, Jesus expects His followers to fast.
- I had to fight really hard against allowing weight loss to be the ultimate goal of my fast. Yes, I was hoping I would lose some weight (which I did), but weight loss was not, and should not be, the ultimate goal of your fast. Caution: check your motives before you fast. If you struggle with an eating disorder, please make sure you process a fast with others and make sure your motives are noble if you do choose to fast.
- You don’t have to pray for it – if the scriptures say to do it, you do it. For example, a Christian dating couple doesn’t have to pray whether or not they should have premarital sex. The answer from God’s Word is “no”, so you don’t have to pray about. In the same way, you don’t need to discuss whether or not you should fast. The answer from God’s Word is yes!
- I felt so much better after a few days. Now, on the other side of the fast as I feel my body adding back on weight and resuming old patterns, I keep asking myself why I would choose to eat like garbage.
- I learned in a whole new way that when I am stressed I crave food. I always knew this but it became clear during some stressful moments in life during my fast. And I believed running to food would solve my problems. I was more in tune with this stress response than ever before. The Lord reminded me how often I choose to turn to food in moments of stress. I was reminded that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).
A few recommendations if/when you choose to fast:
- Invite others in to fast with you. 10 friends chose to jump in with me, and each chose to fast with me for one day. It was great to know someone was praying for me each day, and I was able in turn to pray for them specifically. Ask for help when you want to give up.
- Know why you are fasting. For example, I had three specific prayer requests that I and others prayed for during my fast.
- Be prepared for your body to do some weird things. Not to get in too much detail here, but I don’t think my body knew what to do, both without solid food and then what to do with solid food after the fast ended.
- Block off some times of silence and solitude in advance. My biggest regret during my 10-day fast was not blocking off specific times to pray every day.
Next steps for me:
To keep this as an active discipline, I am going to fast one day every week. Every Sunday as I look at my week ahead, I will schedule one day for fasting to continue to pray for my food struggles, as well as other prayer requests/opportunities.
- What are your thoughts on fasting? Are you willing to study what God’s Word says about fasting? Will you read some articles (i.e. the ones listed above) to help you grow in your understanding?
- What’s one step you can take? Can you mark off one meal, sometime in the next few days to fast and to intentionally pray for one of your struggles? Can you intentionally pray for someone in your life? I am not “healed” from my eating/food issues, so I’ll take your prayers!
- If you choose to fast, let me know. I’d love to join you or pray for you. Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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