Jesus’ answer is very telling. He asks ‘how can the guests of the bridegroom mourn (fast) when he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.’
Fasting is an expression of our longing to see our unseen Father.
But it is so hard to fast and pray to someone we can’t see! We love what we can see and smell and touch.
That is why as children of our Father in heaven we are in danger of slipping back into performing like the hypocrites. Because it feels good to hear the words ‘very good, well done.’ We naturally run after things we can see and smell and taste.
Children of our Father in heaven are to run after him, to long for him, to seek and pursue him as our treasure.
In Matthew 6:32 what this world runs after are not big sinful things like drugs, alcohol, wild parties. They are the ordinary, everyday things of food, drink and clothes.
Food is not bad, until I treasure it more than God, look forward to my next meal more than time with God, turn to it for comfort instead of God. When I long for comfort I am really longing for the secure, loving relationship with my Father God that I was created for. Many of us turn to food and drink when we don’t get the approval we crave. It is a vicious cycle, because after eating the entire multipack of chocolate, we don’t feel better, rather worse!
We can use clothes to make us feel very good, well done. The right labels, a low-cut top, a shirt that shows off our best bits, and covers the rest…we use clothing to make us feel powerful. To give us confidence. To gain the very good well done, from others.
Planning to fast is a powerful way of loosening the grip that stuff has over us. It’s not about the time, or the extremity of what you are giving up. It’s not to gain the approval of others, or your own self. It is because God the Father already approves of you. You want to express that above all else, I need my Father in heaven. He is enough for me. He is everything to me. I long for him.
Fasting from shopping could be a powerful weapon that helps us learn to turn to him for the comfort we need. We think if only I had that top, then I would feel that very good, well done, from myself, or others. Another top is not the answer! What we are longing for is the 10.10.10.10 approval of our Father God that we were created for.
Food and drink are part of the new creation. They are good gifts to be enjoyed and celebrated. But they are dangerous if we find our comfort in them, rather than God. If we love them more than we love God. If we run after them instead of running to our Father.
What do you run to for comfort? What are you in danger of loving more than God?
Here are six simple steps to get started:
1. Start small, but regular.
2. Try fasting from different things, to reveal what you cannot live without. Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians. Fasting is about helping you to enjoy the Father more than anything else. If you are under 18, or struggle with eating issues then skipping meals is not for you. Try fasting from something else. Be creative. Think hard about what it is that you love more than your Father God.
3. Make sure your purpose is to glorify your Father. If it’s anything else – to lose weight, to have control over something when everything else feels out of control, to punish yourself then it is not a fast to glorify your Father. It has become about you.
4. Have a plan of what you will do to glorify your Father in the time you would have spent online/eating/shopping.
5. Consider others. Love for God and for neighbour go together. If anything, others should even feel more loved and cared for when we’re fasting.
6. Try different forms of fasting. Jesus speaks of private fasting in Matthew 6, whereas in Acts 13:2 and 14:23 the early church fasted together.