I had been fasting from the spiritual discipline of fasting during Lent for some time now. I found that I was good at it as well! I didn’t really understand the heart behind the discipline until recently, when I was able to better grasp the concept and the intimacy that can be experienced with Christ as we lay down something we hold dear, and lean into our Father’s sufficiency in utter dependence. My inner rebel, however, continued to push against this concept of sacrificing “for the Lord” in light of His grace freely given to me. Why would He need me to give up something for him, when He already died for my sins?
My journey through Isaiah 58 and the prophet’s description of true fasting caused me to revisit what I understood to be “fasting.” “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…” (Isaiah 58:6-7)
What if fasting should incorporate giving to something instead of just giving up something? I found that in my own fasting experiences, I always became so quick to try to beat my body into submission to whatever it was that I was giving up. My time quickly shifted from concentrated times with the Lord, to a countdown to when I could partake in whatever it was that I gave up. I think Isaiah’s description of true fasting helps us see when we’re getting sidetracked, and brings us back to the heart of Christ.
Scripture tells us that we cannot know the Father without colliding into what is on His heart: justice, the poor, the outcast and the hungry. The prophet Micah touches on this again in Micah 6, as he asks, “With what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before the Lord on high? Shall I come before the Lord with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?” (Micah 6:6) He lists off all the wonderful sacrifices he could bring before the Lord to demonstrate his love for God; but the conclusion he comes to is this: “…do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with the Lord.” Micah reminds us God isn’t any more pleased with us when we lavish Him with our sacrifices.
As we wrap up our Lenten fasting this season and look to the empty tomb on tomorrow, let us pray about what we are giving to in our fasting. I pray that as the Body of Christ, we might be experiencing deep intimacy in a lifestyle of true fasting, and that the aroma would be pleasing to our Father.