A New Way To Fast

By Staff Writer

When most people talk about fasting, they’re usually talking about denying themselves food. For others, fasting is a foreign concept: Deny myself something? The concept of depriving ourselves of something can be hard to swallow (no pun intended). That’s why diets never really work. We’re trying to cut ourselves off from something we want or crave. Still, fasting is touted as a valuable practice by many. Jesus took fasting for granted (Sermon on the Mount, Matt 6:16-18).

So, what if we examine our motives for fasting, or even change our concept of what fasting means? Fasting could be giving up some things, or viewpoints, or ways of behaving so that we gain something even better.

What if we thought about fasting as refining our character? Of course, we would let go of character traits, attitudes, behaviors that really don’t serve us well. Then, we would replace them with thoughts and actions that ensure happiness, success, and well-being. We would be gaining a divinely inspired view of ourselves. And if we live from that view…wow!

Let’s look at three areas where we can refine character.

Appetite
We can deny ourselves that strong sense of appetite, or those sensual urges—the need for immediate gratification, which would make us slaves to sweets, chocolate, coffee, soft drinks, uppers, etc. When we can’t go without something, when we become dependent upon something outside of ourselves, or God, for that matter, to make us function, we’ve lost our self-control, our God-given dominion.

We can give up such an appetite, or even addiction, so that we can gain true satisfaction, real power, and dominion. Real satisfaction doesn’t come from caffeine, sugar, or even popularity, riches, or fashion. Rather, it comes from our relationship with God. The more we understand God and how wonderfully God made us, the more satisfied and truly happy we are.

Judgment, criticism, contempt, complaint, opinions, comparisons, condemnation
What would happen if we give up or let go of criticism, condemnation of others or self-condemnation, labels we place on others or ourselves, political opinions, religious opinions? We’re not talking about losing our moral compass—just letting go of that heavy, negative habit.

Let’s experiment: Let’s take a fast on judgment of any kind just for one hour. Then we can go to three hours, then one day, then three days, etc. That means every time we think a critical or complaining thought, or want to make someone else agree with us, or think we’re better than someone else, we stop that thought, say nothing, and change our thinking. We’re willing to let things be. We look for and accept the best (not the worst) in others. In a sense, we’re acknowledging each person’s God-given nature and focusing on that, rather than on all the mistakes.

It takes work to monitor our thought process—how we’re viewing a person, situation, ourselves. But loving our neighbors as ourselves is a wonderful Christian duty and privilege (Matt 19:19). We don’t want to set ourselves up as judge, jury, and executioner. Rather, we want to love and have compassion as Jesus loved and healed.

Screens
Screens consume so much time and energy and zap us of what’s really important in life. There are too many studies out there that support this, especially in relation to teens’ addiction to screens. Giving our life over to screens takes us away from God, from humanity, from friends, family, and all that has meaning.

So, here’s a challenge: What if we didn’t look at our phone, tablets, electronics for an hour, then three hours, then a whole day? (Now, some school work and jobs require computer use—but not screen addiction.)Then, later, once we feel free, we could find some healthy way to communicate with others without letting the screen interfere with real connection and communication.

All the texting, tweeting, blogging, face-time, snap chat, etc., etc., etc. can be such a waste of time, effort, energy, even life itself. When we fast from screens, we find a better way to use our moments and our days—to improve the quality of our life and the lives of those around us.

Impossible? Nothing is impossible to God (Luke 1:37)!

How would fasting from these things change our lives?

  • Would we feel more satisfied, in control of ourselves and bodies? Would we feel more content?
  • Would we become more tolerant, more compassionate, more aware of others’ perspectives?
  • Would we see the good in others and ourselves more easily?
  • Would we feel kinder, happier, lighter in our step?

Fasting is really not depriving ourselves of anything essential. What we’re giving up is not necessary to our spiritual growth. But what we’re gaining is totally essential—a freer sense of ourselves and others, which is more balanced, centered, settled, peaceful, calm, joyous, and vibrant. And that’s worth letting things be—the way God meant them to be.