I usually back off from a lot of things during Lent, including social media, to make time for prayer and reflection, and to declutter my life…and it is always such a rewarding experience.
We tend to think of Lent as a period of abstinence, fasting and giving up, but actually the opposite is true. If you do Lent right, you can actually gain a lot more…
Lent and everything that goes with (prayer, fasting, etc.) is basically for people who want to move forward. If you have anything pending, like a court case, a health concern, an illness in the family, a loved one who is struggling with an addiction, a strained marriage, or an increment that is overdue, then Lent is the perfect season for you.
There is so much to be said about this subject, but let me keep it simple. The way I see it fasting is for people who want things FAST. And there are some things in life I want more badly than food. But if we only abstain from food and don’t mix that sacrifice with prayer then we are not really fasting — we are dieting. And the only thing you can expect from a diet is to lose weight.
But fasting is not just about losing weight…it’s so much more. Through fasting, I’ve gained wisdom, revelation, insight, I’ve had all of my prayers answered, my kids are thriving, my wife is happier, my health is better than it has ever been (and that includes my mental, emotional and spiritual health).
Yes – I did lose some weight too and in all the right places. The little tuck I’ve gained around the middle makes me look younger and I actually feel very youthful. Through fasting, I’ve also gained more tolerance, patience, perseverance, discernment. I am more relaxed, more calm, I am smiling more…you get the picture, right?
I admit: fasting is not easy. The hardest part about fasting is getting started. Sometimes, the hunger really gets to you. And people usually try to offset it by eating something heavy just before starting the fast. In my opinion, that’s self-deception. The whole purpose of fasting is that you must feel hungry. It’s a sacrifice, right? It must make you uncomfortable and want to eat badly. And in that state, when you get down on your knees and pray, you begin to move mountains.
The irony is that once I got past the initial discomfort and started reaping the benefits of fasting, I wanted to fast more. And the thing with fasting is that the more you fast, the easier it gets.
The Bible presents fasting as something that is beneficial for everyone. If you asked me, as a friend, I would strongly recommend it too. And you don’t have to wait until Lent to get started, although that’s the best period. Why Lent? Look at this way. If you want the bank to sanction a loan, you’ll go during business hours, right? You won’t go at midnight when the bank is closed. Similarly, it makes sense to approach the Throne of Mercy in the hour of mercy. It’s as simple as that.
People often misunderstand what abstinence is all about. We can always have a feast and we rarely miss an opportunity to eat. In fact, most of us eat way too much most of the time and that’s not very good either. But that’s not what fasting is about. God does not derive any sadistic pleasure from our hunger. Fasting is less about what we’re giving up and more about what we’re making room for. When we fast, we exchange what we need to SURVIVE with what we need to LIVE. Fasting frees the body and mind from the things holding us down and helps us hear God more clearly.
If you are past the age of 30, you already know by now that life has this propensity to throw all kinds of curve balls. You’ll be challenged in your job, your marriage, your health, your finances, etc. And every once in a while you will want something so badly that you would be willing to give up anything for it. Even food. That’s what Lent is really about. It’s for us and our benefit. When we fast and pray we are essentially telling God, “I need You. I can’t see where my life is headed from down here. I don’t know what’s coming down the road, but You have a better view from up there. You can see the big picture. Please take care of this for me. I trust You.”
I don’t know about you, but I try to take my life one day at a time. I look at what’s happening in my life. I look at my marriage, my kids, my home. I look at what’s happening around me and in the world and then I decide what I need to do. Some days I am FEASTING and some days, especially around this time, I am FASTING.
What about you?
You have 325 days in the year to eat what you want, when you want and how much you want. But you only have 40 days of Lent to fast and pray. And this is the final week. If you are not maximizing what this period is all about, you are really missing out.