If you aren’t too familiar with Lent, that is ok! The six weeks leading up to Easter Sunday is a season on the church calendar known as Lent and based on the story of Jesus fasting in the dessert for 40 days and nights (read the story here). Lent is a time for believers to focus on the sacrifice and salvation of the death and resurrection of Jesus through prayer, fasting and Scripture. This season is meant to be a time to refocus your priorities and voluntarily abstain from a need, want or desire you have to focus more clearly and intensely on connecting with God in a deeper, more profound way.
Growing up, I was encouraged to give something up I considered an important part of my life- this was anything from online shopping, Facebook, painting my nails, etc. As I’ve gotten older and more independent, I have researched this topic and want to share my thoughts with you on why fasting during Lent is important and how to go about doing it.
Fasting is defined as abstaining from food for a period of time in order to heighten your hunger for the things of God. Daniel, Esther and Ezra are just a few of the many examples in the Bible who fasted as part of their relationship with God. Clearly, fasting was something very important to them, but it is not done often in today’s world. It is not an easy thing to do! Fasting reveals what controls you so that you can break the enslavement from it and allow God’s love and power to satisfy you more than anything or anyone else can.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6
What exactly does it mean to “hunger for God”? Most of us have never truly struggled with physical hunger or not getting enough nourishment, but think about a time that you didn’t have breakfast and had to wait all the way until lunch to eat. That gnawing in your stomach was hunger. Ask yourself when was the last time you had a gnawing in your heart to be fed from the Word of God. If your answer is like mine, it is probably not very often. As Christians, we do not hunger nearly enough for God. Other “hungers” distract us and detract us from a hunger for God. We live in a world with endless distractions and constant noise, which makes it easy for us to feed our hunger with anything and everything other than God. If you’re feeling sad, you pick up your phone, invite a friend over and eat a jar of Nutella. If you’re mad, you take your frustration out at the gym. If you’re emotionally exhausted, you watch reality TV, etc. you get the idea. God is longing to provide for us in every circumstance we’re in, but we’re too busy trying to provide for ourselves to notice.
The first step is to identify what your body, soul and heart hungers for. In order to get closer to God, we need to identify what has a hold on us. What supplies your strength, comfort or relief? For many of us, it’s food. It’s our morning coffee that we “can’t start the day without,” or the sugar after dinner we crave. Maybe it’s the hours consumed by social media, having to buy the latest tends, or an obsession with stepping on the scale every morning. Take some time to think and pray that God will reveal to you what is filling the place in your heart where He should be.
In addition to fasting for Lent, I encourage you to also add something new to your routine. Something like more quiet time, taking the time to read a good book, going to a prayerful event, helping someone less fortunate, etc. This is going to be different for each person. It’s important that we each take the time to hear God’s voice in our own life to help us identify what we should fast from and add in.
The good news is fasting breaks the hold of what enslaves us. I remember taking a missions trip to Costa Rica in college, where we weren’t able to use our phones. “What?! I can’t use my phone for an entire week??” were my exact thoughts when I found out. You never realize how attached you are to something until it’s taken away. By the end of that week, I felt such a sense of freedom from being away from my phone and not feeling attached to it.
“All things are lawful for me, but now all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but I will not be dominated by anything.” 1 Corinthians 6:12
Your phone, coffee, shopping or monitoring your weight aren’t sinful things, but when you are allowing them to dominate and ensalve you, that’s when there’s a problem. In this verse, Paul is not only pointing to our problems, but also to the power that God has to break your enslavement to these things. We just need to do our part too!
Once you’ve identified what has a tight grip on you, it’s time to free yourself from it. The focus of a fast, however, is not about personal gain or dieting, it’s about breaking enslavement for spiritual gain. Surrender to God whatever has a hold on you and acknowledge to yourself that you don’t need it. Author Richard Foster wrote, “Our human cravings are like river that tend to overflow their banks fasting keeps them in their proper channels.” If we never have control (through God’s power), our enslavement to food, our phone, etc. will destroy our lives and keep us from finding complete satisfaction in Jesus.
I challenge you to take these next 6 weeks of Lent and fast from something you truly feel like you “can’t live without.”
Because you can, and you will grow closer to God in the process. Find one or two people to hold you accountable and commit to these next 40 days without ______ (you fill in the blank). It is not going to be easy, but the freedom and hunger for God that will come from it will be worth it.
“She Reads Truth” has multiple reading plans for women, including a Lent plan, either through their app or signing up for their emails. They even have beautiful pictures to make as your lock screen for a more constant reminder of the Truth.
“BibleGateway” also has a Lent reading plan to read the life, death and resurrection in all four of the Gospels in the six weeks leading up to Easter. Download the app or sign up for their daily emails.
Read the book of John (21 chapters total).
I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions on this topic as well as any personal experience you’ve had with it!