By Connor Kerr, Resonate Pullman member
I remember standing on the cold locker room floor with hundreds of starved youth as we waiting to be weighed in. I was surrounded by young men who had the same passion that I did: wrestling. The same thing would happen every Saturday: one proud boy would start grumbling about how long he had sat in the sauna to lose that extra pound. Then another would top the story with his own heroic tale of how he was 12 pounds over on Tuesday and hadn’t had any water for days. Wrestling’s bizarre weight-cutting culture is arguably what it’s known for best, and it taught me a lot about my relationship towards food.
We would fast for all the wrong reasons, but we developed a deep love for food and a bizarre level of nutritional discipline. We also understood that the kid that was quietly keeping to himself in the corner was the toughest (because he didn’t have to convince us by way of boasting about his starvation).
Years later as I recovered from the aftershock of my drastic dieting, I began my journey into fasting from a Christian perspective. I assumed it would be easy because I had trained all these years not to eat, but I had no idea of what I was getting into. Christian fasting is not about losing weight. It’s about what you gain.
What is fasting?
The Christian fast is a temporary surrender of something to make room for Jesus. Many believers take the season of Lent to fast from something good (cell phones, makeup, coffee, singing) to fill its place with something better (God-focused things like prayer and confession). Historically, the main type of fasting for Christians has been food. We see many examples of the Jewish people fasting in Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. Jesus himself fasted in the desert. Fasting typically consists of skipping a meal or a day of meals. When I give up food for one day in hopes to get clarity from God, every hunger pain is utilized as a reminder to pray. Urges to eat remind you to repent, and the smell of your coworker’s lunch prompts you to direct your focus on God and away from your own needs.
Christians have used fasting as a powerful weapon to build churches, attack sin, praise God, and receive clarity. It is miraculous how a fast from food can rip me out of a season of spiritual dullness. In 2nd Samuel 12, King David is faced with the worst moment imaginable: his son is going to die, and it’s his fault. He immediately begins a fast, which is a staggering testament to the power of fasting.
The question of why we should fast is often a disguise for the real question in our hearts: “What will I get out of this?” My theory is that this strange entitlement we have towards God’s commandments is our consumerism bleeding in to our spiritual life. Fasting is not meant primarily to provide results; rather, it is meant to reorient your focus onto God. You want to be in step with the Holy Spirit before making big decisions, and fasting acts as a tool to help you get there. Not to mention, we serve a God that is worth our full attention, so to direct your thoughts and actions towards him is always a worthwhile task.
“When you put aside food to say ‘There’s something better than food, and it’s being with God’ then all of the sudden fasting from food becomes feasting on God” -David Platt
The temptation to boast:
“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.” -Matthew 6:16-18
Now by cautioning us against boasting, Jesus demonstrates his understanding of temptation and hunger. Also, by starting with “when you fast” instead of “if you fast,” Christ is providing a mandate, not an opportunity for extra credit. Many who have fasted can attest to the overwhelming urge to tell everyone they run into how hungry they are. I have even found myself steering conversations to a place where I can politely decline to go get food with my friends, hoping they will prod me for the reason I am abstaining. We must be humble. When you feel the urge to talk about your hunger, instead vent to God, and ask Him for satisfaction.
So that’s it?
This is by no means a complete guide to fasting. There are books that cover the true history and meaning of fasting, and to be honest there are much more comprehensive blog posts about the subject. My heart is for the people of Resonate Church to be people who use the power of fasting in response to life and in anticipation of life. I'll leave you with some questions to ponder, as you consider the role fasting will play in your spiritual life:
Do you fast before dating someone?
Do you fast over your future career?
Do you fast when God blesses your family?
Do you fast when a family member is sick?
Do you fast to pray for people in your life who are struggling?
Do you fast over your kids’ future?
Do you fast to pray for your community?
Do you fast and pray for opportunities to be sent on mission?
You may not have ever tried fasting for the Lord. If you are one of those people, my question to you is: When will you begin to fast?