Have you ever wondered about fasting? What is it? When should I do it? Should I even do it? Is it something that was only done in the Bible or is it something I should do today? Why do people fast and do I have to?
I attended several churches growing up (my dad was the pastor of all of them) and some of the churches practiced fasting more than others. I don’t remember fasting in our home growing up, and if my parents did on a regular basis, they didn’t talk about it or encourage my sister and I to participate.
Once I reached adulthood, I was challenged to begin fasting on a regular basis. I started out small and as my spiritual appetite grew, so did my fasting (length of each fast, what I fasted, and how many times in a year). Sometimes I fast from dinner Monday night until dinner Tuesday night for an entire school year. Sometimes I fast one particular food (coffee, dessert) and sometimes I do the Daniel fast (no meats, no sweets) to name a few of the fasts I’ve completed. Fasting lasted for the length of time God invited me to participate – sometimes the month of January, sometimes 40 days, sometimes three days depending upon what I was giving up.
For the past several years I had fasted in January, giving God my firsts for the whole year, wanting His blessing over the upcoming year of my family and my writing/speaking career. For whatever reason, I failed miserably. Miserably. And felt like a failure, too. Maybe it was because I was coming off a different 40-day fast. Maybe it’s because I was combining a “personal first of the year fast” with a different 40-day fast I was doing for our nation. Maybe it was because 2020 was difficult and I was exhausted. Maybe it was because I’m human.
I had a conversation with myself. I was beating myself up (again) for failing to fast well in January … and God used that moment to remind me why I choose to fast. It’s to draw closer to Him. It’s not to follow a bunch of rules (even the giving God my first of the year rule), but it’s because I always want to go to the next level with God, and sometimes it’s easier to do that when fasting. A time to get distractions out of the way and go to God to be filled up instead.
The following Sunday, my pastor declared a corporate fast (that means the whole church was going to participate in a fast together) and invited the congregation to join him. I wasn’t going to, because I wanted to get away from the “rules” and focus on my relationship with God, but then he said something that spoke to my heart. One reason to fast is to break bad habits and choose to let God help us get victory over them. I wanted that. I hadn’t been able to break those habits on my own, so why not fast and give them to God, trusting He will help me gain victory in the ever-elusive struggle I’ve dealt with for over 40 years? So I did. I am.
As a result, this fasting period is different. Am I tempted? Absolutely! I actually have given up more this time than I did earlier this year. But I’m choosing to fast with the right heart. I want to hear from God. I want to break old habits by drawing closer to Him. I want to declare freedom and victory because God gives those gifts freely to His children when we walk in obedience. Fasting is a time to grow closer to God. I’m focusing on God during this fast (what I will gain by fasting) instead of focusing on the food (what I’m giving up).
I think I had forgotten that in January. I’m glad God gave me a do over less than a month later. I’ll be breaking my fast on Easter. I’m looking forward to seeing what God is going to do in my life as a result of this obedience.
If you want to join me, pray about what God wants you to give up (food, social media, anger, etc.) for how long (through Easter, until you’ve broken the old habit) and then write it down so you won’t be tempted to quit earlier than what you promised to God. It might be hard, but the result of a closer relationship with our Father is so worth it. I promise.
© Cheri Swalwell 2021