“Fasting?! People actually still do that?”
Right in the middle of our family devotions this week, my daughter registered pure shock. We laughed, we explained, and then we considered the truth: How could she know that fasting is still part of our faith-walk today?
Our hope is that our kids see us practicing the spiritual disciplines because we should be living them out, not just preaching them: What does prayer look like? What about Bible reading? Serving at church and elsewhere? Loving others? Giving?
Can they see these in our lives?
We’re imperfect and they’ll never see perfection if they look at us. Still, we try to live our faith out day in, day out–not just in the church, but in the home, and the office, and the minivan, and the meeting, and more.
But fasting is unique. Scripture tells us when we fast not to let others know we’re doing it, so we tuck this one discipline away into a secret space with the Lord. We don’t talk about it.
Somehow, though, we need to break through the silence enough for my kids to know that fasting isn’t some archaic religious practice confined to “the olden days.” It’s a here-and-now spiritual discipline that helps us re-place Jesus as first in our lives.: First over our wants. First over our desires. First over even our physical hunger.
Lord, I want you more than anything.
That’s the declaration we make when we forego something good in order to seek God more fervently.
And Jesus didn’t say to his disciples, “If you fast…”
He told them, “When you fast” (Matthew 6:16 NIV).
So, we laid out the basics for our kids. About how fasting is usually, but not always, from food (especially for those with health needs that preclude fasting from meals). We talked about Lenten fasting and fasting out of obedience to the Lord’s call, how fasting can be meaningful and how it can end up meaningless tradition.
We reminded them that fasting isn’t meant to be a public show put on to satisfy our spiritual pride. If anything, it’s deeply humbling to know how needy we really are.
It’s not about proclaiming our strength or superiority; it’s about longing and dependence.
That’s what Jesus described:
Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”
15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast (Matthew 9:14-15 NIV).
Our bridegroom is gone now, just as Jesus said He would be. Now that Christ is no longer walking this earth, we’re filled with that insatiable longing, a constant desire for His presence. And it’s that seeking after the Lord’s presence that motivates us to fast.
We fast because we need Jesus.
This world surrounds us with its mess and its disaster. Evil oppresses. Sadness overwhelms. School shootings harass us with fear. Conflict tosses us into intense storms and we cry out for the peace that only Jesus can bring.
It’s all because we’re looking for our Bridegroom, our Lord, to return again and to bring the total victory over death, over the grave, over evil, over sin, over everything broken and wrong and sick and painful.
In the meantime, we languish. We long. We seek. We wait.
Not for bread or hamburgers or pizza or pasta.
We hunger for His righteousness. We hunger for Christ’s presence right in the middle of the mess. We hunger to know Him more fully and to see Him more clearly.
We want Jesus more than we want the answer, more than the provision, more than the solution we’ve been seeking. We channel all that misplaced want to the only One who can satisfy our truest, deepest need.
We want you, Lord.
Fasting reminds our bodies, minds, and hearts that Jesus is not just our greatest desire; He is the best we could ever desire.
When we do this, when we choose more Christ and less us, when we discipline our very own bodies to go without so we can choose Jesus over all else, the Lord can break through.
It’s not that there’s a magic formula here. It’s not that fasting today means insta-answer tomorrow. It doesn’t mean that fasting always guarantees a grand revelation.
Fasting does, however, position us to seek the Lord, seek Him wholeheartedly, seek Him without distraction, seek Him with determination and focus.
Then we cling to the promise:
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13 NIV).