Fasting with faith: Why taking breaks fixes focus

Considering this is Liberty University, it seems most people are either familiar with fasting, or know someone who has done so in some fashion. Typically, when we think of fasting, we are quick to assume the word refers to diet, especially since the emergence of popular health trends such as intermittent fasting. However, fasting can refer simply to the abstinence from something for a period of time.

Fasting can be done for religious purposes, but it can also be used to correct a diet or discover an allergy. Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve a variety of illnesses and is one of the most effective ways to regulate weight, researched by Johns Hopkins Medicine. However, the practice of intermittent fasting, especially if it becomes a lifestyle, should be approached with caution. It may not be the best “health” solution for everyone depending on their age, circumstances or medical conditions.

On the spiritual side of things, fasting is one of the various ways Christians connect with God. Fasting occurs dozens of times in the Bible. Paul, David and others made it a habit to carry out this practice.

In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus gives these directions for fasting: “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” In a religious sense, fasting should be a private practice with the purpose of growing closer to the Lord. The time away from food can be spent in prayer, meditation, worship, reading the Bible or other spiritual disciplines.

Photo by Ella Olsson | Photo provided by Unsplash | Illustrations added by Hannah Gilmer

But what about Christians who cannot fast? Type 1 diabetics, for example, must eat and regulate their food carefully to take care of their glucose levels. Not eating for days (and sometimes even hours, depending on the person) can kill them. In addition, someone with an eating disorder is not a prime candidate for health reasons. So, fasting from food is not a great option. Does this mean they miss out on a major part of the spiritual experience?

No, not at all.

Fasting in a spiritual sense does not have to involve food. The purpose of fasting, for the Christian, is to turn attention from the world to God by temporarily removing a material habit. If someone constantly checks their watch, they may choose not to wear one for a while to practice patience and living in the moment. Refusing to scroll on Instagram, TikTok or Facebook during the school day is an effective way to save time for reading the Bible, getting homework done and practicing self-care. Reserving an hour or two for worship or prayer every day is another possibility someone can try.

Fasting is a great way to demonstrate and practice the Christian faith. It is a method to reset the busy American life and turn our minds back to the King of Kings. Life as a college student, especially, is chaotic. Many young people are figuring out how to “adult” while taking care of their bodies and staying on top of their academic schedules. Their spiritual lives are usually the first piece to slip, and often, this isn’t realized until it is at the bottom of the to-do list However, it is important to stick it out through the tough spots and remember God’s sovereign plan. Though not the only way, fasting is an excellent way to refocus our priorities on our Creator.

Johnson is an opinion writer for the Liberty Champion

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