Let me give you a sneak-peak into the texting conversation my good friend Jonathan Dumas and I had when he informed me that I’d be writing on the spiritual discipline of fasting for Dust & Breath:
Jonathan: “Hey dude. Murillo and I decided that we’d love for you to write on fasting. You down?”
Me: “I hate you. Okay, fine.”
That was pretty much the extent of our conversation. So let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room: I hate fasting. I would not say I’m good at it. I find the most minuscule excuses possible to get out of it. I don’t regularly practice it. In fact, I think fasting is the only discipline in which I look to God and say, “Really?”
I love food. I love coffee. Whenever I eat something delicious my soul praises God. “Thank you Lord for this burrito. The guacamole, chicken, and sour cream do wonders for my soul.” Whenever I drink a good cup of coffee, pretty much the same thing happens. “I praise you Lord for this pour over Ethiopian coffee. Each sip causes the veil between Heaven and Earth to become increasingly transparent.”
Food is good. Coffee is good. So why would God want me to abstain from these good gifts for a period of time?
I write this as a fellow sojourner trying to follow this Jesus daily, but who also hates fasting. Fasting was obviously a part of Jesus’ life. Therefore, as someone who seeks to become like Him, I need to make this discipline a part of mine.
So, what is fasting? Simply put, fasting is a discipline of saying no to something in order to intentionally say yes to seeking God. Usually this means food, but it could be something else that God may be inviting you to give up, such as social media, coffee, TV, music, spending money, whatever it may be.
So why fast? Fasting is a way to interrupt the normal habits of our day to day lives (i.e. watching Netflix after you get home for work, eating breakfast at 7:30 AM, listening to music on your commute to work, etc.) in order to focus our attention to God. Habits can be good. But have you ever noticed that habits can often cause you to check out mentally? But when you interrupt a habit, you are more aware of what is going on. For example, imagine you habitually watch an episode of The Office on Netflix after you come home from work (nothing wrong with that, I love The Office), but one day you randomly decide to go for a walk instead. 40 days straight of watching the office after work, followed by one day where you decide to go for a walk instead, then followed by another 40 days of watching The Office after work. What day are you most-likely to remember? What day do you feel like you would be most fully present to your life and able to be aware of God’s presence?
Saying no to a normal appetite (whether it be food, coffee, Netflix, etc.) in order to say yes to seeking God disrupts the normal pattern of our lives and creates space for us to be more open to God.
There is obviously a lot more to fasting than one blog post can provide, but from what I’ve learned and studied so far, I believe that the bare bones reason for fasting is to say no (an act of self-denial) in order to say yes to seeking God.
In closing here are some thoughts and practical tips for where to begin:
1. Pay attention.
Pay attention to what God may be inviting you to fast from. Pay attention to the rhythms of your life (and what rhythm God may be inviting you to disrupt for the purpose of seeking Him). And pay attention to your schedule to see if there is a day that you could schedule a fast.
2. Start small.
If you feel God is inviting you to give up food, do not start with fasting for three days. Start with one meal. Give up lunch and spend time praying instead.
3. Be wise.
Do not fast from food if giving up food would not be good for you (such as if you are pregnant, sick, have diabetes, or an eating disorder is a part of your story and fasting would be a harmful experience). God does not desire to put you in a situation that would cause you emotional and physical harm. Therefore, talk to a mentor or trusted friend about whether fasting from food would be a good thing for you to press into, or if there are other options you could try.
May God bless you on this endeavor of creating space in order to seek His presence.
INSTAGRAM & TWITTER: @DAVIDBEAVIS
Eating lots of food and looking at pictures of puppies are couple of ingredients to David's perfect day. The driving passion of David's life is walking alongside people as they figure out what it means to follow Jesus today. David holds a B.A. in Psychology from Vanguard University and an M.A. in Theology from Talbot School of Theology. He currently works at Mariners Church in Irvine on the High School Ministry team. David lives in Costa Mesa, CA, with his amazing wife Laura.