We fast to feast on God.

Jesus sets fasting as the example in John 4 where He says, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about,” and “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me.” In Matthew 4, He says, “We don’t live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

Yet we aren’t well-versed in fasting. Instead we stay busy stuffing our ourselves with all the wrong things. We try to fill our deep interior hunger with things that don’t fully satisfy. Though there are appropriate needs for physical food, activities, and material possessions, we all get off kilter. What we need to fill our hunger is the deeper spiritual food of eating of the Body and Blood of Christ,

Fasting—abstinence—centers on restraining oneself, forgoing, refraining from a particular substance. This restraint allows us to have more space to examine our own appetites, to see what we fill our stomach, our calendar, our checkbook, our relationships, our mind, and our hearts with as we go through each day.

By fasting joined with prayerfulness, we invite God to form us into the likeness of Christ by reshaping our hearts. Fasting brings us to humility, echoing the emptying of how Christ emptied Himself. Along the way, we begin to catch small glimpses of what suffering can do to transform us. 

However, holy habits are not meant as places to get approval, to “look good as a Christian”—the poser—but to move us towards transformed hearts and a deeper intimacy with Christ.

Ancient Christian writers understood that holy habits helped the process of heart growth so that we might develop Christlikeness. Holy habits enable us to combat our many vices. For instance, gluttony—which we equate to being about food—can be about greed/envy/entitlement, etc. At its root, gluttony is always, always, always about wanting more than we have. We want what we want when we want it and to the nth degree of overflow.

Yet Christ repeatedly seeks to please the heart of the Father. Jesus moves into pleasing God by being in alignment with the Father’s heart. Watch Him and see how He continually displays and lives from contentment, rather than this constant nag of “wanting more.” 

Fasting reveals our need of self-examination, repentance, and prayer, which, when accompanied by reading and meditating on God’s Word, brings us into a plea.

God, would You realign my heart, mind, body, and soul with Your own heart? 

As we fast, we notice where we have small idols in our life, even where we are the idol of our own life. Here we see ourselves and beyond ourselves. We discover how inattentive we are to the needs of those in our world that live in a constant state of hunger in one form or another. 

Fasting brings us into a contemplative stance where we examine our heart and invite God to examine it as well.

I find that fasting leads me to look further into what needs to be further looked into! 

As Christ’s followers, we don’t just fast for the sake of fasting. We allow the space of less—whatever we have chosen to forgo—to become a space of more. This newfound space creates opportunities to feast on God.

Fasting is fastened to prayer.

In prayer, I become conversational with God.

He speaks. I listen.

I speak. He listens.

Here I feast on the delight of being with God. I hear His affection for me. I am His beloved. I am His joy. I sit with Him and look over my heart from His perspective. What does He want to shower me with? What is He up to in the “rock and a hard place” squeezes of my life? What will I hear in the spaciousness of slowing down to simply be with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

Feasting on God allows fasting to do its work of reshaping me.

It’s not enough for me to simply give up food or binge-watching or shopping for six weeks during Lent. As I feast on God in prayer, in reading and meditating on the Word of God, I discover where I am well-fastened to Him, and where I am slovenly. I don’t fast to lose weight (if I eliminate certain foods) or to get more time to work on a house project (if I give up social media or mindless television-marathons).

I fast to fasten myself to the One who fashioned me for Himself. 

As we fast, we see what holds us close to Father, Son, & Spirit and what pulls us away. A simple look at our calendar, our checkbook, and our continual choices reveals much, doesn’t it? Spending time in God’s presence in the space created by our fasting reveals yet more.

“Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.” Hosea 10:12

I like how Hosea’s words reiterate to us that we must break up our unplowed ground as we seek the Lord.

Fasting surely unearths things we’d rather not plow up.

I find I need to plow some unplowed ground in this season of Lent. What about you?

How will we fast so we might more deeply feast on God during Lent?

Feasting unites me to what God desires for me, what Jesus whispers in affirmation over me, what Spirit wants me to notice about the depth of God and His deep love for me.

What are you discovering as you feast this Lent?

Features photos are courtesy of Tim Marshall and Sam Williams on Unsplash

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