I haven’t fasted for years. Sometimes I have tried, but I usually only lasted a few hours before I gave up.
Today I decided to fast.
I was struggling with insecurity in relationships. A friendship at work was strained, and I wasn’t sure how to break down the walls that had been built. I always pride myself on being able to get along with everyone. But sometimes people refuse to get along with you. They don’t want your friendship. That hurts.
I was struggling with feeling rejected by another friend. It felt like it was all up to me and I failed. I was struggling to keep the negative thoughts at bay. When the Holy Spirit put the idea to fast in my head.
People have different ideas about what fasting is. Sometimes it’s influenced by what we’ve learned as children or read in the Bible or other books. For me the purpose of fasting is to learn to depend upon God to meet my needs—physically and spiritually. Going without food is a way to help me focus on God. When I’m hungry, I pray and think about God instead of eating. So I decided to fast from food for a day.
I hesitate to even blog about this because I don’t want you to think that I’m super-spiritual. To be honest, this was the first time in over 15 years that I’ve fasted. So it’s not like fasting is a big spiritual discipline for me. It’s because I was weak that I felt that I needed to fast. Here’s my account of my day.
9:00 AM—I’m at work. Things are busy and tense. I feel God calling me to fast for the day. I decide to drink only liquids for the entire day. (I had already had a bowl of Cherrios for breakfast.)
10:00 AM—I refill my cup at the coffee bar at work. Every day for the last week, new holiday treats have littered the counter. Today is no different. An array of Christmas cookies and candies cover the counter. It’s crazy how much food there is. What a great time of year to fast! But I’m focused. I don’t want sugary treats. They are sweet, but won’t satisfy. I meditate on how God has provided for all my needs. I want God more than those treats.
10:45 AM—I e-mail a few friends and ask them to pray for me today.
11:00 AM—The morning has flown by. I’m busy with several projects at work. I feel pangs of hunger, but I’m focused on my goal. I can depend upon God. He is my strength in time of need.
1:00 PM—I begin to think about how most people in the world feel hungry all the time. I have chosen to go hungry for one day. Some people go days without food. I can walk to the refrigerator and eat something anytime I want. I have a new appreciation for what I have and what people in poverty go through every day.
2:30 PM—There is a party for our president at work. Birthday cake is served, but because I’m not eating I sing and then leave. I feel a little antisocial. There’s something about food that unites people. I’m reminded that I’m a stranger on this earth. This isn’t my true home. I’ve got a family waiting for me in heaven. I feel peaceful.
3:30 PM—Now comes the real test. I pick up my kids from school. When I’m hungry, I’m usually very grumpy. I’m short tempered with my family. I remind myself that God will help me. I depend upon him. Amazingly when my kids fight over their favorite chair, I don’t yell. I calmly tell them that they are going to take turns sitting in the chair. If they rush in the door and jump in the chair, they will forfeit their opportunity to sit in the chair. Wow! The Holy Spirit really came through that time.
5:00 PM —Dinnertime. I slip up once as I’m cooking the spaghetti and pop a strand in my mouth to see if it’s done. I feel a little guilty. I realize how I often eat something without even thinking about it. It’s a reflex, not a choice. I think about how sometimes I respond to situations in anger, fear, or hurt as an impulse. But I’m not impulses. I can feel those emotions and then choose to dwell on them or to surrender them to God and ask him to transform them through the light of his truth.
5:30 PM—I sit down to eat with my family. I actually think about serving them instead of how soon I can eat. Instead of shoveling the food into my mouth, I focus on what each person is saying. My mind seems clearer. I use my hunger pains to remind me to focus more sharply on what my family members are saying. The French bread they are eating looks really good. I love a nice crusty bread, but I resist.
7:30 PM—My head hurts. My stomach aches. I keep drinking water and coffee. It staves off the hunger for a little while. I read John 6. It’s all about bread. Jesus feeds 5,000 people with a few fish and loaves of bread. The next day the crowd comes looking for Jesus. However, he realizes that it’s not him and his message they want, but more food. He tells them that he is the bread of life, that anyone who comes to him must eat his flesh and drink his blood and then they will have eternal life. Gross, huh? Yeah, the crowd didn’t like it too much. They thought it was too difficult. But that’s the point. You take a risk when you put all your eggs in the Jesus basket. It’s all or nothing, but what you get is so much greater than anything this world can offer---eternal life, relationship with God. These truths take on new meaning when your stomach is empty and a chorus of stomach rumblings fill your ears. How far will you go, Andrea?
Give me the true bread. I long for eternal life. I am nothing without you.
9:30 PM—I drink some hot chocolate with egg nog, and my stomach hurts. I think it was too rich. I read John 6 again once more before bed. I try to meditate on the truth. Jesus is the bread of life. I go to sleep.
6:00 AM—I wake up and make some coffee. I don’t feel hungry at all. My mind is clear. It seems that the Holy Spirit is teaching me about the relationships I am struggling with. I try to listen. I meditate on John 6.
“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the son of Man will give you.”
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world.”
“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
These are tough words to swallow when your stomach is full, but when you are hungry, you realize how much you need God. When there is no food in your belly, you realize you are weak and frail.
Taking away food for a day and replacing it with mindful meditation on God was a really helpful spiritual exercise for me. I believe the Holy Spirit will use it again in my life to bring clarity and humility to my relationship with God.