'What Good is Fasting'
Wednesday, February, 14, 2018 | 1:53 PM | by Munholland
What good is fasting when all I get is a caffeine headache. What good is fasting when I am distracted by the growling of my stomach? What good is fasting when it makes me irritable and easily angered? What good is fasting? These are familiar questions we all have when it comes to the practice of giving up food and drink (especially coffee!).
It is a hard thing to say 'No'. 'No, I won't give into a temporary desire when it causes long-term troubles.' 'No, I won't give into desires when they keep me from doing what I know I should.' 'No, I won't give into desires that waste my time without doing any good for me or others.' But how can we say 'No' to difficult things when we can't even say no to the little things? What good is fasting? It builds up our will and strength to say 'No!' Fasting from certain foods or all foods that we desire gives us practice at saying 'No'. The more we practice saying 'No' to things we desire, the better we are able to say 'No' to temptations that draw us away from God's desire for us. Remember, it was after saying 'No' to food for 40 days that Jesus was able to say 'No' to the temptations of the devil.
What good is fasting when my mind is distracted by hunger? Fasting does not distract us, but reveals the distractions in our lives. Fasting reminds us of how much we are slaves of habit and indulging the many things that fill our lives without our thinking about them. Paul does not say that 'their god is their stomach' (Phil 3:19) for no reason. Our daily lives are to a large extent governed by our bellies and other desires. Don't get me wrong, those desires are natural and good in their proper place. However, they get out of proportion and rule us without our consent. What good is fasting? It reminds us that 'Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,' as Jesus reminded the devil in the desert. (Matthew 4:4) We often feast to satisfy our physical hunger, yet do not feast on God's Word to satisfy our spiritual hunger. Fasting helps us intentionally make time to put our physical desires in place, so that we can satisfy the deep spiritual hunger of our souls.
I encourage you to make the move from Mardi Gras feasting to Lenten fasting on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14th. We have had ample time to feed our bodies and friendships in celebrations. Now is the time to strengthen our wills and seek God who alone can satisfy our hungry hearts. Seeking 'life that is truly life' (I Tim 6:19).
Dr. Jonathan Beck
1201 Metairie Rd.,
Metairie, LA 70005