On the playground of spiritual disciplines fasting gets picked last, and sometimes not at all if the teams are even. But in a culture of instant gratification—with the ability to fulfill any appetite, and a growing belief that all appetites should be fulfilled—stepping back from the table and intentionally emptying our stomachs becomes a very helpful tool given to us which refocuses our hearts and reminds us of a few simple truths.
You’re more needy than you realize
In Matthew 9:15, Jesus, when asked why his disciples don’t fast, says this, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”It’s simple: Jesus is present. His disciples have no need of fasting, but they will when He’s taken away. Jesus is the reason for fasting.
We fast because a short term lack of food highlights our ultimate neediness, frailty, and absolute dependence on Jesus, which we often forget.
We intentionally empty our plates to give ourselves a physical reminder of where our true satisfaction comes. We make ourselves empty as a reminder of who can actually fill up our emptiness. Fasting is first and foremost about Jesus and our longing for his active work in our lives, homes, churches and cities. We fast because a short term lack of food highlights our ultimate neediness, frailty, and absolute dependence on Jesus, which we often forget.
You’re more of a jerk than you realize
Snickers has had several advertisements featuring Betty White, Aretha Franklin and Machete each one ending with the tagline: “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” We’re told that hunger keeps us from being our true selves. We’re told that we’re the sum of our cravings. The message is: You are your desires and the problem is external. As Christians, however, we know that the problem is actually internal. Our hearts are off. Fasting is a way to push back on the incessant need to fulfill surface level desires. The truth is: “You’re more you when you’re hungry.” I realize this every time I fast. I’m more of a jerk than I’d like to admit. When I’m not doped up with caffeine, carbohydrates and high-fructose corn syrup (my three main food groups), I see clearly that I’m not as joyful as I’d like to think I am. My soul isn’t at rest like I’d like to pretend it is. I’m short-tempered, impatient, easily agitated, and in defense of my actions, far more likely to do mental gymnastics to excuse my behavior.
As Christians, however, we know that the problem is actually internal. Our hearts are off. Fasting is a way to push back on the incessant need to fulfill surface level desires.
Fasting clears away the clutter and our self-medicated stupors to help us see ourselves a little more clearly. You’re more you when you’re hungry. Being “hangry” is a real thing, but it’s soul revealing and should not be immediately assuaged by anything we can find to send to our stomachs. Rather, it should drive us to our knees before a holy God who still has a lot of work to do in our hearts. Especially when it turns out that one of the most influential factors over my attitude towards my wife can be a cheeseburger.
You care more about food than you realize.
I’m from South Carolina; we don’t even try to hide our infatuation with food. My city is home to the invention of the 2 Fat 2 Fly mac-n-cheese stuffed chicken wing and the perennial reign of comfort food. We aren’t pretending, we know food is comforting, “Here’s a biscuit, it’ll make you happy,” and this is part of my problem.
Fasting counteracts this in our soul and lets us look to Jesus to prayerfully remind ourselves of where our true satisfaction and fulfillment come.
I care about food too much. It’s not until I’m fasting that I realize how often I manically open the refrigerator. In these moments I’m often reminded of Philippians 3:19, “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” Fasting reveals to us where we run when things aren’t going well. When we get stressed or frustrated, we’ll run to a functional savior. We’ll run to a short term fix. We’ll run to anything that briefly fills us up and helps us forget how ultimately, desperately empty we are. Fasting counteracts this in our soul and lets us look to Jesus to prayerfully remind ourselves of where our true satisfaction and fulfillment come.
Published February 18, 2016