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Diving Deeper | Fasting

One important truth I’ve gained in my practice of spiritual disciplines is that there is nothing inherently spiritual in fasting. Fasting becomes beneficial when the focus and hope for our fast are clear and present. If I commit to fasting or withholding food for a particular period to hear from God, I am taking a conscientious step toward experiencing communion with Him. But, if my time of fasting is solely comprised of me just not eating, I don’t think I’ll experience the beautiful benefits of the rhythm. When I turn over the plate, I want to replace the need for food with the need for God. When I grow hungry, I will ask God to fill my spirit with His spiritual substance rather than filling my belly with food. In this, we gain clarity of thought and purpose because we are not turning to our own devices to be satisfied. We’re asking God to satisfy us in ways only He knows and can do. 

Fasting or abstaining can also reveal to us the deep dependence and control something has over our actions and attitudes. The things we choose to abstain from may not be inherently wrong, but withholding allows us to see the position that we’ve allowed something to take in our life’s conversation. Along with fasting, living with intentional simplicity and withholding from some things can grow my dependence on God. When we practice the rhythm of withholding, it allows us to introduce simplicity into our lives. When we live simply for an intentional period, it helps us to see what it is that we need and, of course, what we don’t. 

When my family and I moved to Tennessee from California, a beautiful couple invited our family to live with them until we moved into our new place. This was a tremendously life-giving time for us. When we arrived, we unloaded the truck and moved most of our belongings into a storage unit. Because our whole little family would be living in two rooms, we couldn’t bring all our belongings to the house. We were forced to consider what we needed and didn’t have. Of course, there were times when we needed to make a run to get something, but it brought clarity because we paired down. So, things we thought we needed, we didn’t, and vice versa. We lived that way for about six months, so when the time came to empty our storage unit and move into our new home, we had a real wake-up call. I can’t count how often we said to each other, “Why do we have all this stuff?” 

My wife and I also saw how too many options can produce anxiety in the life of our son. He would become overwhelmed and anxious when too many things were going on at once. Life became much easier when we began limiting the number of choices he had to process at once. This can become true for our lives as well. As Thomas Merton says, “Anxiety is the mark of spiritual insecurity.” Simplification helps us focus our attention on where it should be.

To learn more about the spiritual discipline of fasting, check out the fifth episode of QAVA’s Reset series.

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