Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Thoughts on Fasting for Tuesday of Holy Week

Though I’ve long practiced the discipline of fasting, especially during Lent, let me say it doesn’t get any easier. “Oh,” I‘ve heard others say, “how hard is it to miss a few meals?”

There’s a difference between not eating and fasting. Engaged in thought about some project I’m working on, the clock hands can move to the afternoon hours and I never notice. But the minute I decide to fast a meal or meals, a barrage of reasons I shouldn’t start assaulting my brain.

“You might feel bad because of x health problem or y health problem.”

“You forgot to take your medicine and you need to eat to keep from getting sick.”

“You just want to draw attention to yourself.”

“Don’t do it today, do it tomorrow (of course tomorrow is so elusive).”

“Do you really think this makes a difference?”

In answer to that last question, the answer is yes, I think it makes a difference. I’ve seen God move through my times of fasting and prayer for others in ways which were beyond my ability to imagine. But, the biggest change is what fasting does in me.

Giving up my bread reminds me of what Jesus did. He denied his rights, his pleasure, and his very life so that I can have this extraordinary gift of eternal life, which begins even now. When my stomach rumbles, I can use that as a reminder to give thanks for what Jesus did. I can in some miniscule way partake in his suffering.

And fasting also helps to drive self-discipline in other areas of my life like “…taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:4)

If all these benefits, then why don’t I run to fasting?

Because it’s hard. Because I don’t like missing meals. And like all damaged by the fall, I’m-self centered. Fasting really works on my self-centeredness.

Jesus said, “…when you fast, and when you pray.” He didn’t seem to offer an option.

So, if for no other reason, I do it because I believe Jesus asked us to.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-when you see the naked, to clothe him and not to turn away from you own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here I am.” (Isaiah 58:6-9)

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