Lent. Giving things up. It was the reason I was always grateful I wasn’t Catholic growing up. We didn’t have to participate in Lent. Yes, I was a selfish kid but I also really didn’t like fish. You can judge me, but I know there were some of you who were also looking at your Catholic friends not eating candy in middle school and being very grateful you were not them. I didn’t realize that Lent was actually a part of the Christian calendar, not just the Catholic tradition, It would make complete sense for me to participate also. Now, I am not sure my middle school self would have felt differently about fish, but had I known there was a reason an individual or group of people would do this other than just because of tradition, it may have made more sense to me. Fasting is hard but it is not without purpose or reward.
So what is fasting? When we choose to fast we are denying ourselves something and in our hunger and suffering in the absence of that which we have given up, we have the space and opportunity to lean into God’s presence. We are called to fast in the Bible not just during lent, but in general, in the same way we are called to pray. We see where people in the Bible fasted individually and corporately.When the Bible talks about fasting, it is referring to food. Today you may hear people talk about fasting from other things such as social media or television. I don’t have any initials behind my name to debate the validity of that. The important thing I would propose is that we ask, what is the purpose of fasting? In the Bible, fasting is used for many different things: to worship God, to repent, to grieve, to ask for deliverance, to ask for wisdom, and to prepare for a call to ministry. All of these things call us closer to the Lord, and all of them require us to be near enough to the Lord to hear him.
There can be many reasons you have never fasted before, but you can start. Fasting is designed to remind us that God is satisfying enough for all our needs. Is there something that is satisfying you more than God currently? Go without and see how God speaks to you during that time. Be intentional. Psalm 107 recounts the Israelites wandering in the desert and it talks of God’s faithfulness in providing for their needs over and over even when they forgot that he is the one who delivers them over and over. My prayer this week for our church is that we would know God is our provider and will satisfy every need over and over more deeply than anything on this earth.
For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things.
Ps 107:9 (ESV)
This week we are calling you to fast for one day. Typically a fast like this would last from sundown one day until sunrise the following day - but we know that different folks will have varied capacities for this in their lives. Do what you are able to do - and let this practice guide you to an awareness of God as your primary means of satisfaction in life!
Joy - Psalm 16:11
Peace - John 16:33
Rest - Matthew 11:28
Contentment - Philippians 4:11-13
Love - 1 John 4:9-11
As a parent, the thought about shepherding your children through the practice of fasting may seem impossible, daunting, or simply confusing. It is here that I want us to remember that God is full of grace and you are full of His Spirit! He is faithful to guide us and shepherd us as we guide and shepherd our children!
This week, as you participate in the practice of fasting, invite your children who are older to participate as well! Help them understand that as we abstain from food, we are able to put into practice our faith and trust in a God who sustains us and provides for us! If your kids are not old enough to participate in the fast, invite them to pray with you as you fast!
Finish your time reciting the memory verse (Psalm 51:10-12) as a family again and then praying that God would remind us of his provision for us and presence with us!