Today, March 6th, is Ash Wednesday the official beginning of the Lenten season. Lent is the traditional name for the forty days (not counting Sundays) leading up to Easter. There is a long-standing tradition in Christianity to use this time to fast and pray and reflect on the sacrifice made by Jesus on the cross. If you’ve grown up in the Protestant church talking about fasting during Lent may hit a little sideways.
The truth is we have numerous examples throughout the Old and New Testament of people fasting as a spiritual discipline, a path to grow closer to God, or to aid in their decision making. When we fast, we intentionally abstain from something that we enjoy which causes us to feel those pangs of desire when we notice it’s missing from our day. And the way we desire that thing we are missing should be a reminder of the desire we should have to be close to God. Fasting isn’t magic, you can’t say, “I didn’t eat chocolate for a month, so now I love Jesus more.” It’s not about proving your faith by enduring pain. Fasting is a determined effort. First, for the self-discipline to actually deprive yourself of something you love, and second to constantly remind yourself why you are doing it.
These days we can have just about anything we want any time we want it. Gone are the days when you couldn’t get some fruit or vegetable because it was out of season. Now, someone will gladly ship it half way across the world for you. But with so many conveniences, we can start thinking about God the same way. We mistakenly see God as a vending machine or an emergency room. We only check in when we need
It doesn’t need to be a show, in Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus says, “16 And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Fasting is between you and God I hope you’ll try it as we move towards
Should you choose to fast you don’t have to go the full forty days (if you’re fasting from food please don’t go longer than is healthy). Maybe you skip lunch on Tuesdays and use that time to pray. The important thing is to pick something that you will notice is missing from your day: food, drink, social media, TV, sports, etc. I once did a week long fast from music, it was awful, but I learned a lot because it made me take time to be silent and
What can you take a break from that could remind you to desire God more?