In May of last year I married a humble and caring man. As precious as he is, it is quite easy to disagree, get angry, and my least favorite: experience spiritual “disconnect.” It is difficult to describe a “disconnect” with the person that you spend the vast majority of your time with. More often than not, we find ourselves on the same page intellectually and emotionally, but spiritual connectedness this first year and a half of marriage has proven itself exceedingly difficult to cultivate and maintain. Ryan and I have had many of conversations about the routines that we could implement to enjoy more “spiritually unity.”
Just two months ago, Tim Kimberley nonchalantly stood in front of the interns at the end of our teaching and said, “Next week we are going to embark on a three day fast.” All of the interns looked around at each other with eyes wide, anticipating a punch line. The next week our teaching was on fasting, and the punch line never came. This was no laughing matter.
I went home and told my husband about the fast and he agreed to “embark” on such a journey with me. I made a list of all the things that I would be praying for during the fast. Little did I know, the Lord was going to see into the cracks of my heart and fill the spaces that were empty, or starving, with himself.
In the first few hours of the fast, I quickly learned of the bondage I was living in. I am a slave and my stomach is my slave master. It controls my mood, behaviors, and my ability to function. Now I am aware that indeed the body was biologically created to run on food, and it is vital in sustaining our very lives. But I was utterly shocked at the longing I had to just eat. Even in the moments when I was not as hungry, I found myself longing to see, smell, and just taste food. My body desired to be filled. John Piper puts it this way:
“She (fasting) reveals the measure of food’s mastery over us — or television or computers or whatever we submit to again and again to conceal the weakness of our hunger for God. And she remedies by intensifying the earnestness of our prayer and saying with our whole body what prayer says with the heart: I long to be satisfied in God alone!”
Ryan, my, and the rest of human kind’s soul hungers for the Lord, and it is our default mode to starve it of Him. We starve it with busyness and idols, often each other. The human soul hungers to be filled by the Lord. C.S. Lewis puts it best:
“God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no goodasking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.”
In those three long, food-free days, the Lord revealed his kindness to my husband and me. The three day fast became an honest, sober three-day feast on Christ alone. This did not look, sound, or feel like a never-ending feast at Ci Ci’s Pizza. Far from it. This was a moment in which our longings to be satisfied through each other, or any other fake god of our own creation, were silenced by the deafening awareness of our utter reliance upon the Living God for our very existence. Not only that, each grumble or growl was a painful reminder of how desperate and dependent our soul is on Jesus. It would die without him. No, it is dead without him.
The first night of the fast, I went to bed with the worst cramp in my stomach, the kind that makes it unbearable to stand up. In this place of pure pity, I began to cry. As I cried, Ryan began to pray over me. His words were truly like soothing balm to my weak body and soul. His strength (Christ’s in him) strengthened me. His quickness to the feet of Jesus reminded me where I am to fall.
He was gone to work the next morning when I woke up, and I called him on my morning commute. I was feeling much better, almost totally restored from the full night’s sleep. When he answered, he sounded weak and vulnerable. He said that if I would have been struggling that morning that he was going to suggest that we call it off. I began to pray over him. My strength (Christ’s in me) strengthened him. This happened back and forth several times throughout the days. “How are you?” one would despondently ask the other. “Great! You?” the other would answer, full of hopeful encouragement. “Bad. Help. Pray!”
By the end of the second day, I began to realize what the Lord was working in us: unity. Not in the sense that we were both “there for each other” or struggling together, which may be part of it. But ultimately He was unifying us through a shared longing for Himself. He is what unifies. It is only our adoption into the family of God as redeemed sons and daughters that is able to bind us together for eternity, not mere earthly marital relations or some obscure mutual affinity. We were both learning what it means to “run on God”. More of Him in both of our hearts from which “flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23).
When we find ourselves spiritually famished, or spiritually disconnected with our spouse, the solution is probably not to think of some novel way to address the problem, be it an over the top date night, surprise gift, hand written letter, another podcast, or a new book to read. All of those things are certainly helpful! But real satisfaction can be found when we take the deepest longing of our soul, that longing for God Himself, and set it gently at His feet through the discipline of fasting. It is in this way that we ask Him to sharpen our desires for Him that have grown dull at the hands of other little-g ‘gods’ that do not bring ultimate rest to our restless souls. The very courts of the Lord, and nothing else, is what our soul truly longs for, echoing the cries of the Psalmist in Psalm 84. Praise be to God that Jesus has entered into, by his own blood, the the Most Holy Place once and for all (Heb. 9:12) to secure this very rest for our hungering souls!
“My soul longs, yes faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.” - Psalm 84:2
“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” - Augustine of Hippo, Confessions
-Sarah and Ryan Hunter