For over 15 years, I’ve been living a secret life.
Before you imagine the worst, let me clarify.
As a teenager, my boyfriend attended church regularly, yet deep down I knew that he didn’t have a relationship with Jesus. Even though I understood what scripture teaches about dating and marrying a non-Christian, I still didn’t want to break up with him. He meant too much to me.
As our relationship continued into our senior year of high school, I started noticing my mom skipping lunch. I asked her why she wasn’t eating. Her answer of “fasting” surprised me. As the first time occurrence in our household, I sensed her motivation had to do with my relationship with my boyfriend and my future.
Just as I feared, a few months later he broke up with me. I was literally heartbroken.
Memories of Mom’s fasting surfaced, with thoughts of blame towards her for the break-up and interference through fasting.
Still, her godly example made an impression, taking root deep in my heart to blossom in adulthood.
Mums the Word
Years later as a married woman and mother of two toddlers, Matthews 6:16-18’s words of instruction concerning fasting caught my attention. They reminded me of my Mom’s actions:
“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
For months, thoughts of fasting had been on my mind. Various situations in life that didn’t seem to be changing even with prayer, were my motivation. Reading Matthew’s directives for fasting, the word, “whenever” — defined as “when” and “every time” — seemed to jump out at me. It hit me that it’s not presented as an option, but rather as something Christians are to do in living a godly life.
Additionally, when reading through the Bible, I couldn’t help but notice that Esther, Daniel, Nehemiah, Anna, and Jesus, to name a few, fasted. Their sacrifices of fasting seemed connected to critical events at key times in their ministries and lives.
When I finally decided to give it a try, this passage is what began my secret lifestyle of fasting. And until recently, I didn’t plan on ever publicly revealing it. However, as I considered all the positive impacts fasting has had in my own personal life, it seemed time to share my experiences. I realized it might encourage others to consider it in their own life.
So with my observances in Scripture, along with my Mom’s demonstration, I began my fasting journey with pretty simple attempts. They started out as skipping a meal or all three meals for one day.
For many years, my attempts were sporadic at best, but after experiencing a life-and-death incident, my habits began to change. Both my premature daughter and I survived a dramatic placental abruption at 32 weeks of pregnancy. It turned out to be a transformational life event.
Soon I began fasting each day, Monday through Friday until noon. Then gradually through the years, my efforts progressed to periods of 3 days, 21 days, and 40 days.
Over the years, I’ve discovered that when it comes to fasting, food or the lack of food, is really not the central issue. Rather, it’s more the tool through which God can work out and shape my attitudes and situations in my life.
Fasting brings personal repentance. At times, fasting has begun as my praying for another person who has hurt or rejected me to repent. My hope being to bring resolve or repentance to the situation and the other individuals involved. So imagine my surprise when during fasting, my own repentance has repeatedly occurred, bringing to surface areas of personal selfishness, pride, unforgiveness, and so much more.
Fasting softens my heart. Sometimes fasting has started with the hope of softening another’s heart in a painful situation; with the goal to see them to turn to God, choose forgiveness, or seek life changing transformation. Again, I have been surprised to see the softening take place in me. To discover that unbeknownst to me, my own heart had grown hard in ways towards God and others.
Fasting brings discernment. There have been times when fasting has been prompted by a search for God’s leading in relocating locations or changing jobs. It’s been amazing to me over the years, how He will bring clarity, closure, or an unexpected offer or possibility, leaving me in awe of how He works on my behalf.
Fasting aligns my responses with God’s Word. Matthew 4:4 tells us how Jesus’ responded when fasting in the wilderness and tempted by Satan to eat, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'” Fasting has renewed, confirmed, and strengthen my need and dependence on God’s Word, discovering that it is life to me, just as scripture states.
Fasting strengthens prayer. Examples in scripture mention how fasting along with prayer, have teamed up to bring freedom, truth, God’s promises, and so much more. Esther is one who called a fast in her homeland that resulted in freeing her people and exposing the evil plan against her uncle. I’ve also experienced spiritual breakthroughs when teaming up prayer and fasting to confront or deal with situations.
Fasting offers physical health benefits. Along with the spiritual benefits, more and more scientific studies are revealing the physical benefits of fasting on one’s overall health including resistance to numerous diseases. I’ve realized that God’s directives are full and overflowing with benefits for my life, effecting body, soul, and spirit.
Faith With Works
During my high school dating, I thought my Mom was trying to mess up my life with her fasting.
But now I’m grateful for her efforts on my behalf. Also, for her godly example in dealing with the situation. Witnessing firsthand her step of faith in fasting for my future, set-up a secretive, life-changing pattern in my own life that is still making an impact in my life as well as my family.
A few months after the painful break-up with my high school boyfriend, a twig-cross wearing, Bible carrying, Jesus loving young man entered my life and became my husband.