Give me your hearts. Come with fasting…Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead. Joel 2:12-13, NLT
The call to the cross is a call to fast. Fasting is setting something aside that our heart doesn’t need for growth. It is setting something aside that fills our mind and time in a way that makes it harder to hear what God is saying. It can be an appetite, a habit, an action, or an attitude. Lent is a good time to get used to living without something we don’t need. We replace that action with something we need more—time with God.
We can’t add something to our lives without subtracting something else. If we do, we make ourselves ineffective in the most important areas, even if we get more done. God doesn’t call us to get more done. He calls us to get the right things done. That takes listening and listening requires time.
In our contemporary mindsets, we think more about how to multi-task instead of reducing what keeps our minds and hands busy. Most of us listen to too many voices that don’t bring us peace. We need this time of reducing what we allow to take up space in our minds and hearts. When we clear the clutter, we can listen to God better.
Remember John the Baptist’s Advent invitation: Make straight the way for the Lord? (John 1:23, NIV) Clear a straight pathway to God. That’s what fasting is about.
Here are some quick tips to keep you from missing the purpose of fasting.
Don’t punish yourself. Fasting is about freedom not punishment.
Where do you wish you had more time for God? What can you remove so that you can build a new habit?
Be careful about a fast that makes you cranky and less available to your family and God-given priorities. Fasting is a win-win.
What distracts you? TV? Social Media? Texting? Internet? Create a no-contact hour in the morning and the evening. Let God’s voice re-orient you to His messages so that you know what to do with other peoples’ messages.
Look at the list of what should fill your mind from Philippians 4:8-9. What habit or activity does not help you accomplish these things? Fast one of them.
Fasting is not a way to meet one of your personal goals for the year like losing weight or reducing sugar. Fasting is the way to connect you with God.
How would you feel if someone says you are important to them but continually tells you they are just too busy for conversation and time with you? While there will always be busy seasons, life should never be characterized as one busy season after another. Fast to hear how God could untangle what has you caught on a merry-go-round that you don’t know how to stop. Fast to hear how much God loves you with unfailing love and wants you to enjoy the self-acceptance He offers. Fast to return to unforced, unplanned, uncomplicated time with God where He has more to say than you do.
Return to God. That’s the goal. Fasting can help you reach it more consistently. When you clear the way to God, you recognize how hungry you’ve been.
Here is the good news: God is always waiting with a feast.