As we entered the final stretch of the Frontline internship, we collectively fasted for three days. We each fasted from something, from Monday evening to Thursday evening, in order to feast on Jesus. I fasted from food, like most, and found it a challenge--both to fast and to feast.
Before entering the fast, I received a lot of input, advice, and encouragement. Primarily, I read Richard J. Foster’s chapter on fasting in Celebration of Discipline. I also read a few articles online on practicing fasting. A few Elders had also taught about the practice, throughout the internship. In many ways I felt prepared to fast (and feast) well. But I realized quickly that I am terrible at both.
On Tuesday, which I’ll call Day 1, I was super tired. I drank a lot of water throughout the day, but I felt serious hunger pains at the 24-hour mark. I read a few Psalms that evening and prayed. I didn’t see any remarkable visions or receive any incredible dreams. I was seriously hungry though.
Day 2, Wednesday, I began the morning listening to a sermon about dying to self and living to Christ. I read a little in one of the gospels. Throughout the day I was hungry, of course. I thought it would dissipate, but it didn’t. I ended the day writing a short prayer, “God, I need you and I need clarity for obedience.” At the time I was trying to discern plans for post-internship, which is what I meant by asking for “clarity for obedience.”
My prayer wasn’t answered by Thursday, Day 3. What I thought might be the easiest day in regards to hunger became the hardest. I used more of my time to count down the hours until dinner than using it to pray. By the time we were at Lake Arcadia to break the fast together, with communion and dinner, my grumpiness level shot to a 10.
In the midst of these three days, I read Lamentations. I have no idea why. I wouldn’t say I felt any special prompting from the Spirit. I just read it. And I wasn’t even feeling sad. But as I read, I came upon a verse that I had to write down in an effort to memorize it. It was Lamentations 2:13 (CSB).
“What can I say for you?
With what can I compare you,
To what can I liken you,
That I may comfort you,
Virgin Daughter Zion?
Your wound is as deep as the sea.
Who can heal you?”
Those last two lines really got to me. Who can heal us? Who can heal me? I couldn’t get those lines out of my head or heart for the rest of the fast. However, anytime I thought about those poetic lines, my heart responded with a song:
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.”
Turn your eyes upon Jesus. This is something I need to continue to practice; because, if the fast revealed anything in me, it is my inability to handle discomfort or suffering well. When Paul and Silas sang hymns in prison, they were demonstrating eyes turned upon Jesus. If I can barely turn my eyes upon Jesus during a three day fast, how could I someday face trials of various kinds and count it as joy? How would I ever think to turn my eyes upon Jesus in suffering? I’m missing a deep reliance upon the Holy Spirit. I’m missing dependence on the Father for daily bread. I’m missing faith the size of a mustard seed in Christ. I lack. Lacking food revealed my own lack. On the final day of the fast, a friend asked me if I would fast three days in a row again. I said no at the time. But I feel that might be Jesus, asking me through my friend, to try again.
“Follow me,” he told his disciples.
“Follow me,” he tells me.
“I believe; help my unbelief.”
Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster, as sold by the publisher:
Practicing The Way by Bridgetown Church, on Fasting: