This is Pastor Tim’s Article that will appear in the Evening Leader on Monday, Feb 3, 2020
For our time together this week, I want to write about a practice that we probably don’t talk about nearly as much as we should – fasting. Fasting has been a part of the spiritual life of not only Christians but people of many different religious backgrounds for thousands of years. Even secular self-help books will incorporate the principles of fasting.
Fasting is about depriving yourself of something in order to help remove distraction and make the world a little clearer. We almost always talk about fasting in regard to food, but fasting can be done from all kinds of things. Do you have something in your life that you are concerned might be becoming a god to you? Fast from it for a week and you will find out just how much attachment you have to that practice.
We humans have the ability to attach to all kinds of things. We attach to other people, we attach to animals, we can even become attached to inanimate objects. I don’t know why God made us that way, but in His infinite wisdom, He did. What we are charged to do now is to make sure we are using these attachments in healthy ways. Unhealthy attachments always grow out of unprocessed emotions. If you stuff feelings for long enough, those feelings will come out in the form of an unhealthy attachment, which is also known as an addiction.
This is why food is such a common example of fasting. We need food to survive. Our physical bodies need a combination of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals as well as hydration to survive. To deprive the body of any of these nutrients for an extended period of time will cause damage and will eventually cause death. Contrary to popular belief, this process of starvation takes months, not hours. Just throwing that in there for you.
But food can become a substitute for so many things in our lives. Stress eating is literally an industry. Comfort food is a topic we hear about often. That is why many people either eat so much or don’t eat at all – in response to stress. Emotions greatly affect our appetite because what we can’t deal with or process in one way forces us to find another way to cope with it. Often that involves overeating.
This is why the principle of fasting exists. Fasting helps us see how strongly attached we are to whatever it is we are fasting from. I am a vegetarian but I hate broccoli. That means I am in no way attached to broccoli. I have been fasting from broccoli for literally years and my life is going well. I will tell you that my go-to food when I am eating to cope is cereal. If I go a few days without a bowl of cereal, I miss it.
Thus, fasting comes in as a spiritual practice. We don’t fast to lose weight or to fit into our clothes. Fasting as a spiritual practice may help us break an unhealthy attachment. If you want to see how attached you are to social media, fast from it for a week. Fasting can be the litmus test to see how strong the attachment is. If during the fast you miss what you gave up, that is ok. If the fast hurts or causes anxiety, then the attachment is unhealthy.
Fasting is a way to evaluate yourself and make sure you aren’t getting stuck in a rut. It gives you a chance to get outside of yourself and see what your attachments are doing to you. If you leave some of those attachments unchecked, they could be doing you serious damage. Overeating on a regular basis is linked to a whole lot of health problems. If you are experiencing an unhealthy attachment to your physical appetite, you could be hurting yourself and not even realize it.
Fasting is a way to step into being healthier by stepping away from unhealthy attachments.