When you Fast?
By: Tom Grosh IV, DMin
October 29, 2019
“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. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 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.” – Jesus, Matthew 6:16-18
“We eat to try to fill our emptiness.” — Justin Whitmel Earley, author of The Common Rule: Creating Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction
When do you fast for spiritual reasons, i.e., not because you’ve lacked “time” to engage in an activity such as eating? From what do you fast? I confess taking the step from Curating Media Consumption to fasting from the smartphone has at times led to anger, anxiety, and/or loneliness. For seasons I yearned to fill emptiness, find relationships, receive stories, and/or be validated through communications. I require regular reminders of the excess which “numbs us to the suffering and to the beauty of the world.” How about you?
- If you were going to fast from something for a twenty-four hour period this week, what would it be and why?
- Justin Whitmel Earley suggests
- All food, sugar, meat, alcohol, caffeine, social media, TV, or internet.
- Sundown to sundown, possibly a communal fast with friends.
- Starting with a meal. Maybe just skip lunch at work or if applicable, a family/communal meal. Either way, focusing the time on prayer. He finds it easiest 1) to walk instead of sitting, or 2) to serve dinner to family.
- Does it scare you to engage in the habit of fasting or has it become part of your rhythm of engaging “an age of distraction” as a Christ-follower?
- Justin Whitmel Earley suggests
Justin Whitmel Earley concludes “Weekly Habit 3: Fast from Something for Twenty-Four Hours”: “Cultivating the habit of fasting as a way of life means cultivating an understanding of why beauty and brokenness intertwine in the present world. I know of no other way of life that can both acknowledge all that the Lord has done and still yearn for all that we desperately long for him to do.”
I confess that all too often I have become gloomy when engaged in fasting – whether media consumption (especially the Siren Song of the Smartphone) or food. How true that “we are tempted to believe the lie that we don’t need a savior,” ignoring the reality that “nothing but the love of God can fill the pain of our emptiness.” Circling back to Kneeling Prayer and First Things: Scripture Before Phone, the Lord (not our passion to succeed or even serve) is to frame our day. Furthermore, there is great benefit to being part of a community (virtual or local) engaged in habits such as fasting. Yes, I have found incredible value in accountability before the Lord and as part of the people of God. I have a family with whom I strive to meet over a daily meal and several friends with whom I regularly engage in conversation. What communities are you are part of? How do you connect with the Christian Medical & Dental Associations on your campus, in your practice, across your area, through conferencing/short-term missions?
So, what are you going to fast from for a twenty-four hour period this week? Who is going to join with you and / or hold you accountable?
To God be the glory!
When we fast this week, bring to our attention how beauty and brokenness intertwine in the present world. By your grace remind us that despite living in a land (and vocation) of plenty, we rely upon you our Savior each step of the way. May we enter suffering along with Christ Jesus, compelled by the Spirit and the Word to lovingly extend care to those in need.