I’ve never really understood fasting. It seems like such an odd discipline. I mean, praying I understand: you’re talking to God. Reading the Bible—okay, that’s His book given to us. But not eating?
There are the usual explanations: giving up something physical to gain something spiritual; setting aside a desired and life-sustaining element to make oneself desperate before God; showing God you’re serious.
Yet these “answers” always raised questions for me about the correlation between the physical and the spiritual. How does denying oneself food net a spiritual gain? How does not eating make a person desperate for God? Doesn’t hunger just make a person desperate for food? Furthermore, does God care if “I’m serious” for a day or so while I fast?
These aren’t justifications. They’re honest questions from one who feels like he’s missing a primary piece of the fasting puzzle. No doubt, I can obey without understanding, and sometimes that is all one can do. But I’d still like to understand.
A thought occurred to me this morning in church. Perhaps fasting is not a device to show God something (“I’m serious about you, God!”). Rather, maybe fasting is a tool for God to show us something we so willingly forget, that we are not self-sufficient.
We get so accustomed to our daily routine of feeding ourselves and eating for pleasure’s sake, that we miss completely the obvious truth that we are dependent on something other than ourselves for survival. Without food, we die. Despite our many claims to freedom and independence, we are most needy and frail.
Fasting is, therefore, a conscious and deliberate reminder for us of this fact. It is a choice to keep ourselves ever mindful of what the world and our own pride cry for us to forget. We need something outside of ourselves.
Seen from this perspective, the physical aspect of fasting points directly to the spiritual. God is that ultimate “something” that we need. Only He is self-sufficient. Without us, He lives. Without Him, we die.
And so goes my new perspective on fasting. I still have questions. I don’t fully understand. But now I can glimpse the value.
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