From January 7-27, Riverwood is doing a “21 Days of Fasting & Prayer” spiritual campaign. We are praying for Riverwood, our nation, our community, and for personal spiritual growth in 2018. To make our blog a part of this spiritual journey, we are looking at Isaiah 58 and the topic of fasting.

If you missed the past two posts in this series, you can catch them right here on our blog. Otherwise, let’s continue to learn together as we seek Jesus through the spiritual discipline of fasting!


 

by Erin Bird

We just passed the half-way mark in our 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting. How’s your fast going? Mine is going well, but I’ll be honest, some days have been hard. In case you don’t know, I am fasting breakfast everyday. Somedays haven’t been a huge issue, but some days my stomach is screaming at me to eat something.

Are you having painful moments like this in your fast? Maybe you are experiencing:

  • hunger pangs like I am,
  • or anger that you can’t enjoy a candy bar,
  • or frustration because you missed the big TV episode everyone is talking about at work,
  • or feeling left out because your peer group keeps mentioning things from Facebook.

When those moments arise, we can be grouchy and not very pleasant to be around. (We might make people around us wish we weren’t fasting.)

But God tells us through Isaiah 58 the opposite should be true. Rather than make people wish we hadn’t engaged in 21 Days of Prayer and fasting, our fasting should actually benefit others. Look at it with me:

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? (Isaiah 58:6-7)

If you remember our previous articles on Isaiah 58, some of the Jewish people were fasting from food in hopes they could get God to do things for them. They wanted God to be pleased with them and work on their behalf, and they thought He’d be deeply impressed if they gave up food.

But God called the people to fast so that THEY would change! If you look at Isaiah 58:6-7 above, you notice…

  • He wanted them to experience hunger so they could identify with the hungry.
  • He wanted them to suffer so they could understand the plight of those in continual suffering.
  • He wanted them to go without to have a soft heart toward those who have not.

fasting benefits others2 350x196 - Fasting Benefits OthersIn other words, God wanted the people humbled so they might be changed in such a way that their life wasn’t about self, it was about Him and blessing those around them.

All of this tells me we should have two responses in our painful moments due to fasting:

1. Emotional Response

First, our own struggle in the midst of our fast should help us understand those who face a similar struggle far more regularly than us. Our hearts should be softened to the plight of the less fortunate – whether it be physical poverty or emotional poverty. Fasting should produce empathy within us.

As the famous quote says: “You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” Fasting gives you a chance to try on someone else’s “shoes.”

2. Physical Response

Second, the pain we feel in our fasting should lead us to do more than just empathize, it should change how we live toward others.

  • If you are giving up coffee for these 21 Days, could you donate the money you would have spent on your roasted caffeine to an organization like Compassion International?
  • Or if you gave up a meal or an entire day with food, could you give the time you would have spent eating to volunteer at something like the Northeast Iowa Food Bank or the free Waverly Café held at Grace Baptist every Wednesday evening?
  • Or if you gave up social media, could you redeem the time by writing actual letters to people or inviting someone over for dinner?

In Closing

And so…

  • …when you have a hunger pang, allow it to make you more connected with those facing hunger insecurity.
  • …when you can’t have the soda or sugar you want so badly, may it lead you to pray for those who regularly go without.
  • …when you feel left out because everyone is talking about social media, may it lead you to look for others who feel left out and befriend them.

May your fast not only help you be more connected with your loving Heavenly Father, but may it connect you more with those in our world whose biggest need is the gospel.