The heart of all worship is sacrifice.”Pope Benedict XVI
This is my second attempt to write this post. Because, let’s be honest, fasting is hard.
I sought to write about the self-denial practice before, with the plan of reflecting on my experiences while doing it, but the problem with that was—I wasn’t doing it. Not even a little.
And here we are at attempt #2. I planned (prematurely) to take up the challenge this second go-around and push through! Not so much.
So, here I am, and I feel like I’ve failed. I haven’t fasted much, or as faithfully as I could have. And since this seems to be a recurring cycle for me, what can I do?
Well, my hope is that sharing my fasting struggles with you might be both a beneficial, cathartic outpouring for me 🙂 and some inspiration for you.
Why should you and I fast, you may ask? Well, there are several worthwhile reasons.
Fr. Mike Schmitz offers a brief, concise overview of why we as Christians should fast here. My biggest takeaway from the video is how we can easily become enslaved to the things we delight in, whether it is food, entertainment, habits, etc. For instance, I may feel powerless in my attempt to wake up at a decent hour or feel like a victim to that piece of chocolate cake that keeps staring me down. When I feel like I can’t say ‘no’ to these things, they’ve achieved power over me. And I don’t like that idea much.
We know that Christ came and died to offer us salvation and everlasting freedom. You and I are free children on God. Thus, I need to learn to act like it (!) and reclaim my mastery over all the desserts of the universe!
I’m also attracted to the idea of making more space in my life for God by taking away things that might occupy too much territory. After all, if I’m drunk on the pleasures of life, I might miss the message that Christ offers the Samaritan woman at the well.
Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”John 4: 13-14
Do you want a spring of water welling up to eternal life in you!? I know I do!
Lord, grant us the grace to be more faithful in sacrificing for you.
God’s first commandment to mankind was even a form of fasting. He commanded Adam and Eve to abstain from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Deacon Carnazzo reminds us that the fruit from this tree wasn’t bad on its own, but with a call to obey God, it was to be eaten “in the right time and the right way.”
God has blessed us with so much, and with an opportunity to enjoy that goodness. But sometimes we have to take a step back from these blessings and make sure we are more in love with the giver of the good things, instead of the things themselves.
Now is as great a time as any to take a step back and evaluate how much we love God above the good things, especially when our world is struck by so much loss, division, and despair. It’s during times like these when we turn back to God and ask, “Where are you? Do you see all that is going on? Won’t you help us?”
And sometimes He answers those questions and prayers by solving our problems. But sometimes, He turns the matter back to us. “Do you know that I am God? Do you love me above all things?”
It’s when we have to face these questions from God that we look back at our lives, and within ourselves, to reflect on how we can make changes to grow in virtue and holiness.
So, knowing full well that coffee, all the baked goodies, comfort food, entertainment, technology, etc., occupy a lot of room in my life, now is a time to pause and give more of that space back to God. And you and I can do it! We can do all things in Christ who set us free!
New fasting update since first starting this post:
I’ve made it through fasting for a few days, and I haven’t died yet! I realized my biggest problem was not knowing how or when to fast. People fast in different ways, with varying levels of extremity. I kept asking the Lord what to do in prayer, and I finally received an answer.
We know we’re called to deny ourselves for Christ if we want to be His disciples (Matthew 16:24), but it’s easy to neglect this as we go about our routines. If you aren’t fasting or have never fasted, now might be a good time to explore starting. There are many ways to fast, and they don’t always have to involve giving up food. One could do a Netflix fast, cut down on social media, or do good deeds for someone in need.
And yes, I know. Who wants to voluntarily give up the good things and go without? Isn’t life hard enough as it is?
Well–Jesus came, suffered, and died to save us from eternal damnation. So, without Christ, things could be a LOT worse!
And self-denial doesn’t have to be as grim a story as we make it out to be. If you need some encouragement and inspiration in denying yourself to take up the cross, read an earlier post I wrote about Lent and how we can turn our cause of denying ourselves into an epic battle!
It’s not easy to deny the things of this world, but it’s not a battle we have to fight alone.
God can and will help us to be strong against that which we need to overcome in our lives, so that more of His power can reign in us, and we can become victorious.
We’re in a battle, friends! And the battlefield looks like an even more hostile place today with everything that’s going on in our world. But as we deny ourselves and take up our cross, we become stronger disciples in this battle.
Thank you for allowing me to share my struggles in fasting, friends. Reflecting with you has helped remind me why I want to fast faithfully!