Following is the fifth of weekly devotionals that will be posted throughout the Lenten season. If you haven’t already seen the previous Lenten posts on the topic of sin and its forms in our lives, please check them out. This entry takes a different approach to talk about the discipline of fasting. Thank you to Megan Berger for today’s post.
Fasting. If something in your gut just dropped at the word and you considered not reading any further in this post, then I’d wager you are in good company! Before we press on, please know that I am by no means an expert in this area, and I certainly didn’t grow up in a church tradition that focused much on Lent. What I’ve learned over the past few years, however, is how absolutely valuable the practices and spiritual disciplines of Lent are for our everyday lives.
If you are like me, you have a routine and it is easy to spend most of the day “going through the motions” until the next morning when the routine starts all over again. We need seasons and practices in our life to jolt us out of the ordinary and (let’s be honest) self-oriented type of existence we often fall into. Lent is such a season and fasting is such a practice.
But here’s where I want to ask my main question: “What am I fasting FOR?” (And, maybe you’re also wondering, “Why add one more thing to my to-do list during a time when I’m supposed to be focusing on what Jesus has done for me?”)
Read Isaiah 58, paying special attention to verses 3-5 and 6-10. (It’s long, but go for it!)
In this passage, the prophet makes it clear that there is a direct connection between what God has done for us and what we then do in our own lives, especially to those around us. The people in the text who are simply giving up food, but not changing their degenerate daily lives don’t get it and they hurt the heart of God. In other words, we should not be focusing so much on what we are fasting FROM (food, television, social media) as much as what we are fasting FOR (to hear Jesus more clearly, to spend time with a stressed neighbor, to bring a meal to someone). By putting our needs and wants aside in special ways, we create room to foster the Kingdom of God here on earth: and it is a world that is possible because of Christ’s victory on the Cross. Fasting isn’t one more thing to do, it is a way to help us celebrate.
This Lent, don’t just focus inwardly on your own, personal relationship with Christ. Over the next few weeks as you intentionally remember the Savior’s acts of selflessness and compassion, ask God to help you become other-oriented, like He was. In awe and remembrance of what Jesus has done for you through the Cross, contemplate what good He may be asking you to do in turn – to your family, your neighborhood, your church. Now ask yourself how you can carve out the time or the resources to do it. This is true fasting.
Let this be your response to the loving God who says, “My life for your life.”
Need some practical examples? I recommend this article.