Why do people participate in the act of fasting? Perhaps it’s for the health benefits? Maybe it’s a way for them to worship God? Or it may conceivably just be a practice of self-discipline for them?
I’m going to be completely transparent here. As much as I should have, I didn’t begin my fast as a way to be closer to God. Honestly, the true reason I decided to start my fast was because I ate really badly this past weekend and decided that I needed a reset. What started out as a simple ‘cleanse’ however, resulted in a myriad of introspections and personal reflections.
Here’s some information I’ve gathered from my experience with fasting:
Self-control is something that can be learned. This was an exciting realization for me because in many aspects of my life, self-control has always been something that I’ve struggled with for quite some time.
As I was researching bible verses that talked about self-control, I came across this quote that resonated with me on an article from Bible Study Tools:
“If we do not have self-control, we will be slaves to what controls us.”
I no longer wanted to be a slave to what controlled me and in this particular case, what controlled me was my unhealthy relationship with food which developed from stress, my issue with body image, and a number of other factors.
Everyday I continue to wrestle with constant anxiety about food which leads to a repeated cycle of being extremely restrictive about what I was allowed to eat and mindlessly binging. Now I fully grasp that this was wrong but I guess you could say that I started this fast as a way to seriously restrict my calorie intake.
Although I started this fast as a way for me to rid my body from the calories I consumed this past weekend and not as a journey of self-discovery, I actually ended up learning so much more about myself than I could possibly have imagined from this process. One of the lessons that this practice of fasting taught me was that even though I wasn’t blessed with the best ability of self-discipline, it’s really nothing for me to stress about because thankfully, it’s a skill that can be developed over time.
Surprisingly, I didn’t feel hungry for the first 2 days of my fast. When I found myself wanting to eat, it was because I kind of missed the activity of eating. I came to the realization that eating was sort of a mindless habit of mine, a routine. This fast opened up my eyes and made me realize that more often than not when I gravitate towards the thought of food, it wasn’t out of hunger, but instead, boredom.
Another benefit that I noticed from fasting was that since I knew I wasn’t able to eat for the next 3 days, all of the time I normally would’ve dedicated to the intrusive thoughts about food, body image, and fear of gaining weight from eating was instead devoted to examining my personal struggles head-on.
As I continued my online research for what the bible had to say about self-control, I landed on this article by John Piper who happens to, for the past 33 years, serve as a pastor at a Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. What a pleasant stroke of happenstance!
Anyway, I really enjoyed the last passage from his article:
“And how does the Spirit produce this fruit of self-control in us? By instructing us in the superior preciousness of grace, and enabling us to see and savor (that is, “trust”) all that God is for us in Jesus. “The grace of God has appeared . . . training us to renounce . . . worldly passions . . . in the present age” (Titus 2:11–12). When we really see and believe what God is for us by grace through Jesus Christ, the power of wrong desires is broken. Therefore, the fight for self-control is a fight of faith. “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Timothy 6:12).”
“The fight for self control is a fight of faith” – John Piper
Not only can fasting help you to train your self-control but it can also be used to help give rise to your spiritual awakening. By getting rid of your earthly needs, which in this case was eating, you’re able to experience a clearer mind towards your spiritual needs.
On a daily, we as humans struggle with our worldly desires. In an instance of temptation, we have to remember that there are things so much more divine waiting for us if we are able to combat these earthly enticements. Not only does this speak to my constant battle with gluttony, but to pride, lust, greed, and any other sin that you may be trying to tackle as well.
I highly recommend you try fasting, maybe not for three days, but perhaps just for one. It’s kind of fun to challenge yourself and push the limits of your self-discipline. With that in mind, who knows, you might end up on a road to your own self & spiritual discovery. And oh, what an exciting adventure that could be…