Here is the next installment in the January and February Discernment Series. (Click the discernment tags for the other articles.)
We are a few days into Lent, a season widely observed by Christians worldwide for the forty days leading up to Resurrection Sunday (Easter). So, today, I’m tailoring the discernment series to reflect this season specifically.
Characteristically, this a time of renewed devotion and spiritual regeneration. A time of refinement and becoming better aware of our sins that the joy and glory of the risen God-man, Jesus, from the dead and that victory over sin and death is full blown and made manifest within us. It’s potentially a most transformative time.
The period that works it’s way up to the “Superbowl of Christianity” (…Easter that is…) which has been lost among many Christians during modern times and not the least in North America. We live in abundance and forget our poverty….of soul.
Sadly, sometimes this season is reduced to the question, “What are you giving up for lent?” For some it’s a lunchtime meal, or other it’s sweets, for others it’s a cherished activity or luxury, and so on. This sort of reduction can guts the richness fasting can bring. The spiritual gains and insights. Fasting is not about doing without. It’s merely a method to help look within.
You can pray without fasting, but fasting without prayer forgets the whole point of the fast. Fasting is not simply refraining from eating something. It’s not some act of anorexia. It’s a purifying spiritual exercise because it questions are most powerful desires and purifies our intentions and attachments by removing or reducing something we need for life…food…in order to see things differently. We bring these things that surface during our fast before God in prayer. We repent. We start over, refreshed.
A FEW CAUTIONS:
1. Be careful to not ever view fasting, or do fasting, as a way to force God’s hand or suffer in order to get something you need or want. This is manipulation, plain and simple, and rather immature spiritual endeavor.
2. Fasting doesn’t serve the point of getting spiritual brownie points. So, if you enter into a period of fasting, please bear that in mind. We are saved by God’s grace, not the things we do. We please him out of love not to get him to love us more. (His love for us in unchanging.)
3. If you haven’t given up food in a fast before, be very moderate with regards to food. Some people go overboard and this serves as a big distraction. Only skip one meal, for instance. And do the research and preparation needed to insure do don’t run into trouble with your health, or otherwise.
4. During the time you fast, when you feel physical discomfort (hunger) pray, read scripture, or worship. Guard against the seduction to self-righteousness that can happen when you do something challenging, or a have spiritual victory. Jesus warns his followers to not parade around and make a big deal while fasting. This is between you and God.
If you haven’t ever fasted, I encourage you to encounter it this year, at least to a degree. If you haven’t started yet, go ahead and refrain from something, for the next forty days, even if it’s not food. See if it opens your eyes anew.
If you’d like, please use the voicemail button on the right to leave your questions, concerns, or comments about lent or fasting. I’d love to hear what you’re doing this season, or the challenges you’re facing.
On Friday, I’ll post PART II for Lent, Fasting, and Discernment…
I’ll try to answer your questions and reveal a bit more how discernment may be enhanced by fasting.