Why I started fasting… and why you should, too.
Should you fast? The short answer is yes! But why? What can fasting actually do for you? I’d like to go over some of the spiritual and biological benefits that regular fasting can have in your life.
So, what exactly is fasting? According to wikipedia, it is the willing abstinence or refuction from some or all food, or drink, or both, for a period of time. However, fasting doesn’t just have to involve food. It can involve anything that you crave or take in on a regular basis. In a spiritual context, fasting is depriving oneself of fleshly needs or desires in order to learn to trust more in God.
I had toyed with the idea of regularly fasting for quite some time, but had never put it into action. Many times I heard from friends and mentors that intentional fasting was in important part of spiritual growth. One day, my pastor gave a sermon out of the book of Matthew, and spent a good deal of his time pressing the importance of fasting. For whatever reason, it clicked with me that day. And I decided to commit to fasting from all food and electronics every Sunday.
My first day of fasting immediately taught me several things. The first thing it taught me is that I am very blessed to have food readily available any time I want it. There are hundreds of thousands of people in our world that go without food, not by choice, but because of a lack of resources. I have thankfully never experienced this, and honestly always took my provisions for granted; when I went my first full day (about 36 hours) without food, I realized just how important food was to me. Headaches and hunger pains came and went throughout the day. And without meal times to break the day up, time seemed to drag on forever.
The second thing that I learned was how dependent on social media I had become. I found myself restless, and pining for my cell phone, wishing I could check on Facebook and Instagram updates. Again, this is a luxury that I take for granted on a daily basis, and likely one that does more harm than good for me in my daily routine.
To be sure, fasting is not comfortable. But I find that it is when we are outside of our comfort zones that God can most easily get our attention. Furthermore, fasting helps to develop discipline. And disciple can be applied to other areas of one’s life as well. In fact, I ended up praying more on my fast day than I probably had the entire preceding week. Although, to be honest, I also spent a fair amount of time wallowing in self pity (it was my first day, don’t judge!)
And, although it was uncomfortable and challenging, the next morning I woke up feeling accomplished at pulling it off (not to mention hungry), and happy that I had finally followed through on something I had intended to do for years.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT FASTING
God gave the Law to the nation of Israel, commanding them to fast on the annual Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-31)
Outside of this, the Bible does not require fasting, but we do see it practiced throughout scripture for multiple reasons, including:
- Seeking help and guidance from God (Ezra 8:21-23, Acts 14:23)
- Focusing on God’s purpose (Luke 4:1, 2)
- Demonstrating repentance over past sins (Joel 2:12-15)
It is also worth mentioning that in Jesus’ sermon on the mount, he brings up fasting, saying ‘when you fast…’ It is telling that he uses the word when, rather than if. This implies that Jesus assumed his disciples would be fasting.
WHAT DO HEALTH EXPERTS SAY ABOUT FASTING
On top of Biblical reasons for fasting, there are biological benefits. I find it extremely compelling when modern medicine and science confirms something that was promoted in scripture thousands of years ago. And this is certainly the case with dietary guidelines outlined in the Bible.
Research has shown fasting has a number of health benefits, including weight loss, improved blood sugar control, heart health, brain function and cancer prevention.
SHOULD YOU FAST?
After some time of fasting now, I can say that it has brought me closer with God, and has given me a sense of discipline that I did not have before. Not to mention I do actually feel healthier overall!
So, should you fast? I certainly think so! If not food, try removing something else that is a defining part of your day. Electronics was a big one for me, and probably just challenging as refraining from food, if not more so! The point is to remove at least one thing from your routine, and to replace it with prayer, thanksgiving and meditation on God.
It may be tough at first, but anything worth doing usually is. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll wake up the next day with a sense of pride and accomplishment for having followed through with it.