Over the summer, I decided to use my Thursday Thoughts to share some spiritual practices that I hoped you would find helpful. We are not living in simple and stress-free times, so I wanted to share ways that you could connect to God and to who God is creating you to be. Those practices were: praying the Psalms, labyrinths, centering prayer, lectio divina, walking meditation, simplicity, keeping the Sabbath, and singing.
Today we’ll end this series with the spiritual practice of fasting. Now I have mixed feelings about fasting. I think about people who are struggling with food insecurity and the very concept of fasting feels out of touch. Or I think about people who struggle with eating disorders and how fasting can be used in unhealthy ways to starve one’s self. Though fasting can be found within the pages of the Bible and it’s certainly a spiritual practice that can be helpful to consider. Jesus fasted in the wilderness before he faced temptation. “After Jesus had fasted for forty days and forty nights, he was starving.” (Matthew 4:2) Paul fasted after he encountered the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus. “For three days he [Paul] was blind and neither ate nor drank anything.” (Acts 9:9) And Jesus instructed his followers to not practice showy religion. He said, “And when you fast, don’t put on a sad face like the hypocrites . . . brush your hair and wash your face. Then you won’t look like you are fasting to people, but only to your Father who is present in that secret place.” (Matthew 6:16-18)
What’s the point of fasting? Richard J. Foster who wrote A Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth writes, “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.” (pg. 55) Foster relates that whatever is inside of us, whether that be jealousy, fear, anger, pride—these things will come to the surface as a result of fasting. Fasting reminds us that God sustains us. Fasting could even help us realize our wants versus our needs, helping us to keep balance in our lives.
If you were to try fasting, make sure to do some research and ease into it. Drink plenty of water too, PLEASE don’t try to be like Jesus when Matthew tells us that he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights! Though here’s the thing, when I contemplate fasting or have even tried versions of fasting, I actually don’t primarily think about food. I think about fasting in broader terms, like fasting from noise. Instead of putting on the TV or listening to music, maybe invite yourself to spend a few minutes a day in the silence. Sometimes we could even fast from the 24 hour news cycle. It’s good to stay informed, it’s not great to watch the news constantly if it makes us anxious and overwhelmed. We could contemplate fasting from those things we sometimes do to keep us busy or entertained but not open to how God may be moving in our lives. Anyway, it’s just something to think about this week. And I hope that there might be a spiritual practice or two shared throughout this summer that will speak to you on your own journey of faith! Onward!
Thursday Thoughts 9/2/21