The Discipline of Fasting

If you haven’t read my previous blog posts about my journey in discipline this year, I would recommend starting by reading my introductory blog here, as well as my other update blogs which you can find listed here.

The Discipline of Fasting

This month I took some time to learn about and practice the discipline of fasting. I’ll get more into my personal experience with fasting this past month below, but first I’d like to share a little bit about the discipline of fasting itself.

What is fasting, and how do we do it?

Biblical fasting is, quite simply, “abstaining from food for spiritual purposes” (Celebration of Discipline, p. 48). Though there is no clear command from God to fast in the Bible, it is clear multiple times throughout the Gospels that Jesus expected his followers to fast after his death, resurrection, and ascension (p.53-53).

Here are a few things that I learned about fasting from Celebration of Discipline:

  • Fasting is to be done with one’s heart and mind focused on God, making every part of your day, no matter how mundane, “a sacred ministry to the Lord” (p.57).
  • We are not to act like we’re miserable while we fast because we aren’t miserable – instead of feasting on food, we are to be feasting on the Word of God (p.55-56).
  • Fasting should be paired with filling times of worship and prayer (p.54-55).

In addition to helping define fasting and giving Biblical context for the discipline, Foster also shares many practical tips about how to enter into a fast, how to break a fast, what to expect while fasting, etc., that are incredibly helpful for any person wanting to develop this discipline of fasting in their own life. If you want to practice this discipline of fasting yourself, I would highly recommend to start by reading this chapter in Celebration of Discipline.

What has this past month looked like for me?

I must confess that, though I started out with the best intentions, this month was probably my least-focused yet. From the outside looking in, it probably seemed like I was doing well. I fasted one day a week and even took a step back from social media to give myself a little bit more mental space to fill with more of God.

But as it turns out, fasting, and more specifically fasting well, is a lot harder for me than I thought it would be. My issue isn’t that I am unable to avoid eating for 24 hours, though of course it was challenging. Instead my main struggle in fasting is that I don’t actually fast at all – I simply don’t eat and I distract myself with other things like work, spending time with friends, and other forms of entertainment. Of course those things aren’t inherently bad, but for me it turned this discipline that has so much potential to change my life into a mindless and almost pointless activity. It was something that I was just checking off my discipline list, but not something that I was actually giving the time of day to.

As I sit here writing this blog somewhat discouraged, I am reminded of the story Foster shares about a man who once challenged himself to fast one day a week for two years. It was only after being consistent in this discipline for multiple weeks that he started to see changes in his heart attitude, and even after two full years he still was learning how to fast well (p.58). Of course everybody’s experience with fasting will be different, but I think this story gave me hope and motivation to want to continue this discipline in the coming months and believe that, if I take the time to fast properly, God will be faithful to meet me in that place. He always is.

So, as it has been with the other disciplines I’ve practiced this year, this was really just the beginning of learning about fasting for me. I hope that as I continue to develop consistency in this discipline, I will go from seeing this as an area of immense personal struggle to seeing the joy and breakthrough that God brings through fasting.

What’s next on my journey?

The focus of this upcoming month for me will be the Discipline of Study. Check back in at the end of April if you want to hear about my month focusing on study, and as always, I would love to hear about your thoughts and experiences with fasting. I have barely scratched the surface on the subject in this blog, so we can continue the conversation in the comment section below or on our Facebook group, which can be found here.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this update blog, and I hope you have a wonderful April!

– Caroline Richard, Communications at First15