Growing up, my family never gave up anything for Lent, the period of 40 days that comes before Easter and Jesus’ resurrection. I never heard of anyone in my classes mention Lent as well because I went to a public high school. My freshman year at a Christian college, though, all of a sudden everyone around me was asking, “What are you giving up for Lent this year?” Never having been asked that question before, I was intrigued by the idea of giving up something in order to grow closer to God. That year, and in the years that followed, I decided to at least try to give something up before Easter.
My sophomore year of college was probably the most successful of all the years. I decided to withhold Facebook privileges from myself and miraculously stayed off for the full 40 days! But reflecting on that “success,” I don’t think I had the right attitude or perspective. In retrospect, giving up Facebook was more of a self-proposed, self-motivated challenge than it was an intentional decision to grow closer to God.
Reading chapter 2 of Fasting and Stewardship as well as Kelli Trujillo’s article on fasting in Leviticus 23:32, Everyday Matters Bible for Women, opened my eyes to where my mind and heart should be at if I choose to fast again. Trujillo writes, “The self-denial of fasting is linked with true rest of the soul. The counterintuitive rest that fasting brings—whether it be fasting from food, sexual expression, or other modern-day appetites like television watching, Internet surfing, or make-up—is nearly the opposite of the comfortable, pampered rest I daydream about.” In other words, fasting doesn’t solely mean giving up food, and fasting also doesn’t imply comfort in a physical, mental, or emotional sense. By denying ourselves both necessary and unnecessary needs, we are turning our faces back toward our God and relying solely on him to provide for us spiritually. By fasting, we are denying ourselves as our idols and once again putting God back on his rightful throne of our hearts.
Again, Trujillo writes beautifully of this idea: “God offers us a completely different rest: a rest that comes, paradoxically, when our appetites and comforts are not satisfied but are stripped away; when we are left raw and real, vulnerable and maybe even weak—but when what’s left is just us and God, nothing else in the way. It’s a rest that may not “feel” good—but that is good.” I often get stuck believing that when something goes wrong the whole world is ending, or if something is uncertain, I fail to see anything but the negative “what-ifs.” The truth is that God uses our situations in every single way he possibly can; he uses our pain for beautiful, redeeming things. And while bringing upon ourselves this pain of self-denial sounds like a horrible thing to submit ourselves to, God will rush into our emptiness and fill it with his presence.
What are your thoughts on fasting? Have you fasted before? If so, what was your experience? I’d love to hear what you have to say on this complicated, deep subject!
For more information on Fasting & Stewardship, visit this link.