Just Say No--The Discipline of Fasting

"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."--Matthew 4:4 Of all the spiritual disciplines, I think that fasting is the one

that I avoid the most. As I thought about it, I have come to the conclusion that I don't like to deny myself of anything. Especially food. Maybe that's more like it. I don't like the feeling of being hungry. That statement in itself tells me a lot about myself.

This past month, I have been reading the book Growing Grateful Kids by Susie Larson. The whole attitude of gratefulness and thankfulness has been something I have been thinking a lot about since I read Ann Voskamp's book last year, One Thousand Gifts. I know that I am not a grateful person. At all. I tend to be a glass-half-empty kind of girl. So, as I was reading Ann's book last year, I emerged from it with a desire to learn how to be grateful. Anyways, when I saw Susie's book, I thought "Even better! Something I can learn with my kids!"

The first section of the book talked about modelling thankfulness. "Great!" I thought. I can use all the ideas I can get! The first chapter was entitled "Be expectant." I like that. The second chapter: "Refuse worry." I can get behind that too. But the third chapter was "Practice restraint." Hmmm...I'll have to think about that one.

This particular paragraph struck me:

"In this day of entitlement, self-restraint has become a lost art. Or better said, a lost fruit, since it is a fruit of the Spirit. We do ourselves (and our kids) a great disservice if we never practice restraint. Just because we can afford something, doesn't mean we should buy it. Just because we have food in the fridge, doesn't mean we should eat it. Just because it's on TV, doesn't mean we should watch it. On a regular basis, every week, I think, we should say no to ourselves, and then make ourselves deal with it."

Whoa. I had to really stop and think about it. I have never thought about that. Now we don't have a big budget in our home. In fact, I try my hardest to get the most out of our limited funds. My attitude is the more the better. If I can squeeze out the maximum I can, I feel successful. I can be quite self-righteous that we are able to do so well with so little.

It's one thing to not get something because you don't have the funds for it. It's another to have the funds and still not get it. I don't want to deal with the discomfort or pain of telling myself no.

She goes on to say this:

"God have mercy on us. When we oversaturate our kids with the latest and greatest trinkets and toys, we actually ruin our children. When we bail our kids out so they don't have to struggle, we actually weaken them. ... It's not such a bad thing to let our kids wrestle through difficult circumstances or to go without something they want, or to face their character flaws. In fact, all these are necessary for developing healthy, grounded kids."

Maybe, just maybe, that is why God as my Heavenly Father invites me to fast. Not just from food, but from things, possessions, work. In fact, it may be the most loving thing He can do. Instead of being flabby and soft Christians, fasting can actually strengthen us as we wrestle through the withdrawal of not having all that our flesh craves. Fasting can be a way that God helps us to strengthen our character and grow in us an internal strength and vitality that we cannot have otherwise.

In today's journal, we will take a look at some ways that we can practice the discipline of fasting. Even if you are not able to fast from actual food, there are many other ways we can practice this discipline. As with all the other disciplines, it is meant to help us grow in our relationship with God as we discover that He really is all that we need. Even if we strip ourselves from the luxuries of life, we can still be grateful and thankful---and maybe even more so. As I think more about this discipline, I am seeing how closely tied it is to our worship. It can be a way that God deepens our prayer life, especially if we are also practicing solitude and silence.

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