I’ve never tried a fast as a spiritual discipline. I think part of me is afraid I’ll fail. As a “grazer,” I can’t imagine not eating every couple of hours or so.
Nonetheless, what strikes me about the spiritual discipline of fasting is that we in America have the luxury to try it if we so wish. We can choose to go without food in order to strengthen our faith or deepen our relationship with God.
But for 854 million people across the globe, “fasting” isn’t a choice at all but a brutal daily existence. For these people who cannot choose whether to eat or not, “fasting” is simply starvation – and it’s not a luxury, or a spiritual discipline, but a matter of life and death.
If I were to fast, I suspect I’d feel pretty good about myself. I suspect I’d consider my one-day fast a significant sacrifice. I might even pat myself on the back when my fast was done and thank God for the opportunity to grow closer to him. What I might not realize, though, is that my self-imposed hunger is barely a glimpse of what millions of people endure every day, week after week, month after month.
How terribly ironic: what I might choose to impose temporarily on myself is an unavoidable fact for so many.
Lord, help me broaden my approach to the spiritual discipline of fasting. Help me focus my gaze away from my own sacrifice and toward the millions who suffer from hunger, not by their own choice but because of unavoidable circumstances. Help me understand that for many, hunger is not a luxury.
Have you ever fasted? What was the experience like for you?
This post is part of the ongoing series on The Hole in Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns. Six other writers and I are writing a post a day for six weeks as part of my church’s small group study. Want to read other reflections? Click here. I post my reflections here on Tuesdays.
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