A Pathway to Strength
This blog deals mainly with matters of mental health, family life, and related matters. Awhile back I wrote about SAD, seasonal affective disorder. On a day like today when the clouds have closed in and rain and wind lash the streets it might be in order to discuss another pathway to strength; one which is ignored by the majority of Christians.
Take some deep breaths first and make youself promise to read all of this article, not turning off your brain when you see this word..... fasting.
I know the knee jerk responses. I've heard them all. People jump to state that Jesus never commanded us to fast. You're right. He assumed that we would fast ("...and when you fast..."). Others will say that when we fast we aren't supposed to let others know about it. No.... we aren't supposed to trumpet it about and brag about it like the Pharisees. Sometimes fasting is easier when others join you -- a fasting clug for mutual strength and service.
What is a fast and why does it help us? Fasting can be going without all food and just drinking water. It can also be going without food and drinking juices (lots of health benefits for that one). Fasting can also be giving up one particular food -- a favorite food -- for a season (many do this during Lent). When we read Isaiah 58 (go ahead. I'll wait. Back already?) we see that fasting can be the laying aside of self-centeredness and selfishness in order to bring grace, justice, and fairness into the world.
Fasting helps us in many ways. The first way is that it teaches us how to look at something we may have, that God created for us, and saying "no." The word "no" is such a powerful word. We want to tell others "no" but rarely tell ourselves as often as we should. We can fast from going to the mall, from buying online, from TV and the internet, from cursing, from driving too fast or too much... the list goes on forever. And the fast is a time that we give ourselves over to the Lord, to pray, to serve, and to reach out to others.
I fast daily. You see, I was an angry, bitter man who felt that I was called by God to enforce the purity of church doctrine at any cost -- up to an including splitting churches and tossing out the nonconformers. I shudder to think of how morally corrupt I was while at the same time I attacked others for this or that doctrine. When I finally realized what I was doing and how sinful it was (long story), I knew I needed a sign, a daily reminder that I was no longer a predator in God's flock. I stopped eating meat (yes, that includes chicken. I will eat seafood once or twice a month). Understand this: I love meat. I miss it everyday. There are times I go hungry because I'm on the road and there isn't much available that isn't meat-based. But that's good for me. It makes me remember my vow to God. It gives me time to think of those who truly experience hunger -- physical, emotional, or spiritual hunger. It reminds me that this world isn't about me.
There are other reasons to fast. Those who saw Morgan Spurlock's "Super Size Me" saw a quick interview with an MD who talked about the addictive ingredients in some fast food. I know it is easy to pooh-pooh that idea, but it is true. In fact, most foods can become addictive if consumed in great enough quantities over a long period of time, but some fats are especially addictive. The doctor uses one example of using a drug usually reserved for treating treat heroin and morphine addicts treat their cravings on people who are craving chocolate or fast food... and seeing their cravings stop. Through the use of PET scans we can see the same centers of the brain lighting up in the addict and the fast foodie! Why feed the addiction?
Consider doing something like this: two days a month, go on a juice fast. One week a month, do without a favorite food or activity. One meal a month, take the money you would have spent on that meal (ingredients, cost of preparation, cleanup) and give it to the church or to a local charity or mission. Get out your planners and do it now. Then, fast as in Isaiah 58 -- chose a mission, charity, or matter of justice and get involved in it in the Name of the Lord. When the dark days come -- and they DO come -- make yourself get up and serve anyway, pray anyway, fast anyway for it is not about you -- it is "unto the Lord", it is your sacrifice on His altar.
And you will gain strength as He pulls alongside of you and blesses your covenant. Warning: fasting can be very unpleasant at first. Stay with it and you will see a wonderful, wonderful power grow in you. Be strong.