This week we’ve looked at fasting and sabbath: two disciplines that are in conflict with the constant need to “go” and the hunger for more that permeates our culture. What were your preconceived thoughts about fasting and sabbath before the week began? How did those views change as the week went on?
reflecting on fasting
It could be that the Lord is calling you to a traditional fast, abstaining from food for a twenty-four–hour period, with some kind of regularity. Or, as you search your heart, maybe you found that you are placing your hope in a midday latte to get you through the toughest part of your day instead of God. If this is you, perhaps the most obedient action you could take would be to cut out your latte a few times a week to remind yourself of your need for God. Or maybe, when you feel anxiety creeping into your heart, you depend on the instant gratification of social media to give you a break instead of depending on God to grant peace in the midst of a stressful time. If you are looking for the kind of fast the Lord would call you to, ask yourself this question: What am I depending on to make it through the day more than or instead of God?
If you are in a season or in a culture of want, ask yourself this question: What am I placing my hope in? Where do your thoughts go when you feel stress or tired? If your hope is in a coffee buzz or hangout night with your girlfriends and you find yourself using that for motivation more than prayer and dependence on God, it might be time to consider a non-food fast: abstaining from these activities until they are back in their rightful place. If your hope is in having enough, then fasting from food or from some small luxury, or even from collecting or buying things can remind you that when you feel that hunger, you “are actually hungry for God.” The details of your fast are between you and God.
reflecting on sabbath
While we want to avoid the legalism of the Pharisees, there is wisdom in observing the sabbath. If a Christian works seven days a week, she might not enjoy the same level of health. If a person works constantly and doesn’t rest, she will run down her body and run up her level of anxiety. If you find yourself reaching a point of burnout—getting short with those you love, feeling exhausted as soon as you wake up in the morning, experiencing listlessness and purposelessness, and continually numbing by doing things like TV binges—your soul is crying out for rest.
Sabbath is also important for the community of faith. Of course, you can practice the sabbath on your own, but our joy increases when we rest together as God intended. Get together with your family or church small group and plan a regular sabbath time. For some, once a week is too demanding. Try once a month or even once a quarter. When observing a sabbath, the idea is not to create extra stress (though sometimes preparing for a sabbath is demanding). It is meant to provide rest and joy to us—mind, body, and soul.
What surprised you this week in our study of fasting and sabbath? How will you incorporate these disciplines into your life?
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