Fasting: The Soul Vacation
By Jennifer E. Jones
“One more thing before you go…”
An hour and a half in church last Sunday wasn’t going by fast enough. My beloved pastor was going on about the power of the Holy Spirit. It was a topic I’d heard before, and truthfully, I was itching to get out of there.
Just a few days prior, Passion conference leader Louie Giglio was the subject of our college and career ministry night. The discussion on Jesus truly satisfying the soul was still a debate in my heart. It just didn’t seem possible. I knew the Lord was good, but the complications of life were just too much to get all "Pollyanna" about my faith.
In hopes of gaining some understanding, I tried to connect the two sermons. Louie says Jesus satisfies us. Pastor says the Holy Spirit empowers us. Yet both concepts frustrated me. If more of God was all I needed, then I should have been set. I had the Holy Spirit. So why did I still feel so restless?
After praying over us, Pastor added an addendum to his benediction: “One more thing before you go. If you’re feeling distant from God or don’t feel the Holy Spirit working in your life, can I suggest prayer and fasting?”
Ah, of course, when life gets complex, just go back to the basics.
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?
Isaiah 58:6 NIV
Most of us pray. Even some non-Christians pray. Fasting is not nearly as popular, yet it is one of the most overlooked solutions to our issues. Why? Because I believe a lot of the discontent that we experience in this life comes from forgetting who we are in Christ and who He is in us. It's not a problem with people or circumstances, but a loss of internal power. So when you're feeling disconnected from God, fasting -- along with lots of God time -- plugs you right back in.
Now I know that at the mention of fasting you may have winced a little. “Skip a meal? No TV? Turn off the music? I can’t do it!” As dwellers of the Western world, we are not keen on depriving ourselves of things – especially things that are essential to our survival. Going without food or abstaining from entertainment doesn’t sound like fun, and believe me, it’s not. However, if sheer difficulty or mechanics are your only reasons for not fasting, then let’s try to see it in a different light.
Fasting is a vacation for your soul. Think about it. Your body is needy. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld used to say that if your body were a car, you probably wouldn’t buy it. It needs too much maintenance: the brushing, the bathing, the exercise, the feeding, etc. All day long you’re catering to your body’s needs. So fasting gives you a break. You get to leave the desires and demands of the flesh and concentrate on your spiritual health.
It also puts things in perspective. It’s hard to get upset about money when you’re hungry. It’s hard to get down about troubled relationships when you’re hungry. Pretty much all of the issues of life dull to a whisper when up against the roar of an empty stomach. And that emptiness that you physically feel on the inside drives you straight to the Cross. As you begin to step away from your needs, you become more tuned into His.
Now, fasting and praying are a two-for-one deal... they must go hand-in-hand. I’m not necessarily talking about: “Dear Lord, thank you for this day.” You’ve got to spend time with God… like you would with your spouse. It’s about conversation – back and forth.
Talk to Him, and more than talk, listen. Yes, God has a voice, and you can hear Him when you get quiet. Try it. I did it – which was a feat in and of itself being the music junkie that I am. Just a few moments during the day made all the difference. I discovered a fact that changed my prayer life: God is incredibly chatty. When given the opportunity, He will talk to you all day. Jeremiah knew it. He wrote the words of the Lord in Jeremiah 33:3: "'Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.'"
So it's clear that prayer and fasting are the answers, but where do you start? Many people will tell you that you must be "led of the Holy Spirit in order to fast." That's true, but if you haven't fasted in years, then let me go ahead and tell you that you're probably due for one. Don't wait for inspiration to drop from the sky. As is often said, Jesus told his disciples "when you fast," not if you fast (Matt. 6:16).
My pastor was right, and a soul vacation was in order. I knew that if I were ever going to get in touch with the Holy Spirit and find this mysterious satisfaction in Him, I would have to take some time, clear my mind and my stomach, and get to the root of what my faith is all about.
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