Noise permeates our world on all levels. I sometimes feel inundated by the push and pull of everyday life. As a result, I like to start each year with a fast to “get myself right.” I acquired the habit of annual fasting because the church I attend launches a church-wide fast every January, and I jumped on the bandwagon. Many people lack familiarity with abstinence for spiritual reasons and the corresponding benefits (I’m not advocating fasting for health or weight loss reasons).
During my current January fast, which includes TV, I’m developing a keen awareness of the stillness emerging in the absence of the usual clamor. Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” figuratively replaced Quiet Riot’s “Come On Feel the Noise” within the interior of my home. My formative years produced some good tunes, people.
Fasting creates space in busy lives for God to cultivate the garden of our souls. I believe fasting remains one of the greatest things we can do to reset our internal “sticking points.” Taking a break from food, meal times, social media, or other devices that serve as distractions or idols allows room and time for God to show up and bestow guidance and inspiration.
What is fasting?
The process involves eliminating something external in order to focus on something internal. When people fast, they remove something from their diets or lives for soulful gain. It’s a way of extricating distractions and creating reminders to draw nearer to God.
Multiple time frames could potentially comprise a fast: a long phase, once a week, or even one time. While no concrete definition of “extended fast” exists, consider it anything over 24 hours. Weekly fasts occur once a week over a period of time. One time fasts can include skipping one meal in order to spend the time in reflection and prayer.
Here are some examples of my personal fasts:
- Fasted from food and meal prep to allow more time with God.
- Stopped eating at 4pm every day using the dinner hour as a time of worship, listening and singing worship songs for an hour each night instead of eating.
- Shut off the TV for 1-3 weeks during which I discovered how much TV I actually watch and the virtual zero gain I receive from TV.
- Sheltered myself from social media using the time I would ordinarily spend trolling Facebook in prayer for my friends and family.
- Fasted one night of the week and spent that time with God.
- Fasting from TV, Facebook, and caffeine to allow more introspective time (current fast).
Religious sects practice spiritual fasting annually. As I mentioned, some Protestants fast together as a church for three weeks at the beginning of every year. Millions of Muslims participate yearly during the month of Ramadan. Catholic churches practice both extended and weekly fasting during the Lenten period before Easter, giving up something for Lent and abstaining from meat on Fridays. The list goes on.
Why don’t all people fast?
Sometimes people decline to fast for health reasons or because of negative connotations attributed to fasting. It could be due to a lack of awareness of the benefits. Also, I believe folks disregard fasting because of fear and the level of difficulty. We do not live in a culture that promotes minimalism or going without for the sake of having more within.
Life overflows with difficulty. Obtaining your dreams requires hard work. No one ever handed me an Ironman medal that I didn’t earn, believe me. Spiritual centering develops the necessary mindset for determinedly approaching our dreams and including God in that journey. I encourage everyone to try fasting, not because of its ease but because of its value. Obviously, if possible health-related concerns exist, consult your physician.
Closeness to God cannot be overrated. This forms the primary reason that I participate in complete fasts. I use the intervals for food preparation and meal consumption to spend in the presence of God in prayer, worship, quiet contemplation, and His Word.
As the New Year rolls out, fasting provides an intentional break from the routine and regiment of our lives to allow God to prepare us for the coming year. Fasting from social media or television can reset our worldview on the importance of having these distractions (and at what quantity) in our lives. It helps us to see how what we choose to do with our time and energy determines the outcome of our deepest desires and dreams.