By Brianna Hines
I have never had frog leg soup, but I have heard that all you have to do to boil a frog is let him float happily in the tepid water of the pot as it slowly heats up. The same frog that would jump immediately from a scalding pot will wait patiently in a cool one that gets ever hotter while he is sitting in it, to the point of being boiled alive! He just doesn’t notice its effect until it is too late.
The same can be true of the Christian in this godless world. It is the slow, almost imperceptible progression of sin that is most dangerous to us, ever increasing without our notice until we find ourselves caught in its death grip. Its incremental development disarms us. The only way to become aware of its influence on our lives is to remove ourselves from it for periods of time, to resensitize ourselves to its effect on our souls. We have to get out of the scalding water of the world to realize that we have let ourselves get too hot.
Regularly taking a break from, or fasting, the things of this world in ALL areas of our life begins to reopen our eyes to its slow poison and realigns us with the heart of God. Each of the spiritual disciplines requires us to willingly set aside something to engage with God, to fast. Just look at how fasting is at the heart of many of the spiritual disciplines:
Solitude is just fasting from social interaction.
Sabbath is just fasting from our work.
Bible reading and study is fasting our time.
Prayer and meditation is fasting our attention.
Simplicity is fasting our resources.
Submission is fasting our control.
Confession is fasting our pride.
Service is fasting our gifts and talents.
Celebration is fasting our cares and worries.
Worship is fasting our egocentricity.
This makes sense. We must remove or refrain from the things of this world to have an empty place that God can fill. Without fasting, we are far too stuffed up with worldly thoughts and habits to fit God in even the smallest of crevices, which we desperately try to do. When this happens, God must break against us with suffering in our circumstances or strain in our relationships to tear open our callous hearts and provide an opening for the Holy Spirit to enter and resume His work in us. Instead, fasting, or wilfully refraining from the world, can provide that opening, and we can make room for the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside, not the outside.
Biblically, the way God has trained His people in the art of fasting is to have them fast food specifically. Of all the things to fast from, food produces the most immediate and tangible spiritual challenge. Nothing will show you your own need for God faster than the hunger pangs and cravings not two hours into a fast. It is somewhat pathetic actually how quickly my self-righteous view of myself dissolves when I realize that I can’t even last half a day fasting without praying for strength, to overcome cravings, certainly, but also to overcome my indignation, anger, snappiness, depression, laziness, and all the other things that rear their ugly heads when I get “hangry.” Huh. I am not so righteous after all.
That picture of the awesome Christian girl kicking butt at life slides right out of my head, and I replace it with begging at the feet of Jesus to get me through until 5 p.m. without killing one of my kids for asking me to make their third lunch! You really need THREE lunches on the one day that I don’t get even ONE! How selfish of you for having a growth spurt today! I can’t believe how selfish and ungrateful you are! Mmmm hmmm. You know I’m not the only one. And if you haven’t experienced your dark side yet, don’t worry; she’ll meet you in an alley sometime soon and she’ll be carrying a fresh box of Krispy Kremes.
There is one thing I do know for sure though: God will give us the strength we need to live the lives He desires us to. That is the beautiful thing about fasting. It is teaching us, every hour, sometimes every minute, of our fast to pray for God’s strength, to rely on Him. It is a natural alarm clock for prayer. Every time our stomach growls, every time we find ourselves in front of the fridge, every time we walk past the delicious smells of a restaurant, we are prompted to pray. The needy demands of our stomach become the sweet reminder to be in communion with our Lord, and soon we will realize that we were much more hungry for Him than we were for that measly sandwich anyway.
Fasting has definitely been a journey for me, and one which I am still only just beginning. But the Holy Spirit has used it to awaken me to how much I need God like my daily bread, much more actually. In experiencing my physical hunger, I am much more sensitive to my spiritual hunger. The food that I once used to sooth my every struggle has lost some of its appeal. Sure, I still enjoy a good burger, but it feels as though I have seen what food really is, just sustenance, instead of what I had built it up in my mind to be, something I couldn’t live without. As it turns out, we can go a pretty long time without food. It doesn’t have as big a hold on us as Satan would have us think. He wants us to think that we can’t live without all the things of this world that distract us from what we truly hunger for: God. When we figure that out, we become dangerous. We become appropriately disengaged from the world. We become frogs hopping from the pot that Satan has been trying to boil us in. There is chaos in Satan’s kitchen, and God is loving it.
So let’s jump. Let’s take a break from what the world is selling and eat some spiritual daily bread instead. Fast.