We are currently in the season of Lent. Lent is the 40 day period prior to Easter corresponding to the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness before He was tempted by the devil. During this time, Christians are encouraged to be intentional about fasting, self-examination, and if necessary, repentance.
The truth is, however, Lent may be more of a theory than a practice. In some Christian denominations, it is only mentioned when it begins, but seldom, if ever, afterwards. For others, it is unknown and never even mentioned. For those who truly use the season of Lent to examine themselves and repent, it is a meaningful and spiritually fruitful season of the Christian year.
For the entire forty days (excluding Sundays), participants of the lent season will engage in fasting. Some will participate by fasting a meal, while others abstain from something they enjoy (like sweets or coffee).
True fasting is a valuable discipline to incorporate into our lives all year long, however. There are many terrific benefits of fasting, including honoring the words of Jesus who said when He was no longer walking on the earth, His disciples would fast. In general, fasting is one of the most neglected, yet most powerful aspects of the Christian life.
We spend most of our lives pursuing and enjoying many of God’s gifts. When fasting, we intentionally choose to abstain from those gifts to help us choose God as the desire of our heart.
For example, delicious food is a blessing from God. When we deny ourselves this gift for the sake of focusing our affection on God, we are deliberately choosing the Giver over the gift. We are saying, “Lord, I desire You more than the wonderful gifts that You give.”
It is easy to make the gifts our treasure and our desire, so fasting is a guard against that. During Lent, or anytime of the year, this is a helpful and important discipline for our spiritual lives.
I encourage you to consider some type of fasting not only during the season of Lent, but as a regular spiritual discipline for your life. If you want to read further about fasting, one good book is “A Hunger for God” by John Piper.