Growing up in the church, I heard about this concept of fasting from time to time. I heard pastors read verses that said to, “fast and pray” or other phrases like that, but I never really gave it a second thought. I had always thought of fasting as simply a personal challenge to give something up briefly in order to grow in your faith, but I was still missing the true point of fasting.
The problem with growing up in the church is that it all became routine to me. I had heard the same sermons or verses over and over, and they began to lose their meaning to me. I began to cultivate a stubborn, comfortable heart. I thought it was enough that I believed in God and “tried my best”. I thought that volunteering in ministry or singing on worship team was enough. I thought that the amount of years I had been a Christian counted for something, when really I was only living out my faith in church, at church events, and around people who shared the same faith as me. My faith was lukewarm at best because I didn’t realize the importance of truly living it out. I didn’t realize that, while I don’t have to secure a place in heaven through my actions, there is still purpose behind the things we are called to do as Christians. Simply knowing that I have been saved by grace does not give me a free pass to be complacent.
I heard more about fasting through the church I was attending my freshman year of college and it piqued my curiosity. They would practice fairly regular periods of food fasting, and yet I still didn’t feel convicted that fasting was something I needed to do. My stubborn heart thought I could pray without starving and I could just work God into my daily routine. My stubborn heart told me that it was okay to be comfortable, because why would I sacrifice personal comfort?
I’m really good at being complacent. It is my specialty, so often times God has to get my attention in a way that is not comfortable for me.
Early February this year, life was busy and crazy. I was barely giving God any time in my day because I was so focused on a million other, less important things that were happening in my life. But I refused to think about the fact that I was idolizing things over my relationship with Him. As someone born at the end of the 20th century and raised in this technological revolution, I have become so dependent on my phone and other electronic devices. I can usually ignore this fact and make excuses, telling myself it’s normal. But then when my phone broke out of the blue, I was struck with the realization that I had been putting technology above God and He wanted my attention. He wanted to speak to me but I was too busy listening to the noise of our busy society. As I stared at my broken phone that was now just a paperweight, I realized that I had given this paperweight a bigger place in my life than the Creator of the universe.
As I stared at my broken phone that was now just a paperweight, I realized that I had given this paperweight a bigger place in my life than the Creator of the universe.
Initially, I saw this period of time as an inconvenience, but then God began to stir my heart and I was finally ready to listen. He had my attention and through this forced fast from my phone, I came to terms with how much I relied on it in comparison to how much I relied on Him. It finally clicked with me that fasting is not just about giving up food and praying, and it is not about personal achievement. Rather, fasting is a way to bring your heart back to God and seek Him earnestly, throwing off whatever hinders you and whatever you are worshipping or relying on that is not Him. Fasting is an act of obedience where you can remind yourself that God should be the Lord of your life, and that we all have an acute need for Him that cannot be satisfied simply with the things of this world. Fasting shifts our focus and transforms our hearts.
Through this time period of having to be without a phone, I realized that I want to continue this process. Whether it’s short-term or long-term fasting, I now have experienced its power. It’s a tool I now have to help bring my heart back to God and earnestly seek His will for my life, rather than living as a stagnant, complacent Christian. When we fast, it is like instead of putting God in the backseat of our lives, we let Him drive, while we get to be the passengers in communication with Him as he leads our lives. Fasting is not only an exercise in obedience, but an opportunity to trust in Him. I call fasting an exercise because it is still incredibly HARD! I still yearned for my phone every day, the same way we crave sweets while on a diet, but I found my habits changing and I was seeing the fruit of them. I am learning daily that we are living in a world full of distractions and, as a believer, my number one priority should be my relationship with my Creator. My prayer is that I will continue this habit of fasting and continue learning how to lean on Him and put Him first.