“Is not this the fast that I choose; to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? ” Isaiah 58:6
Fasting isn’t in vogue these days. Occasionally during Lent someone will tell me they are fasting from a particular food or drink: soda, coffee, alcohol, desserts, or meat, for example. Fasting is a spiritual discipline, undertaken to draw us closer to God. The idea is, if we fast from food, our hunger reminds us that it is God who gives us everything and nourishes us, not only with food but with His Word.
True fasting means putting God in His rightful place, giving up our idols–or in our modern way of thinking, our addictions. What distracts you from God? What fills your time without really “nourishing” you? Maybe it’s watching TV, surfing the internet, reading romance novels, gossiping with friends, failing to leave your work at work. Maybe it’s something that seems really commendable like serving in a dozen community organizations, or constantly taking the lead at church. Too much of a good thing can also distract us from the main thing. It’s been said that if the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy. Multi-tasking is in vogue, but sometimes we need to take a break. We need to fast.
One of my daughters recently decided to close down her Facebook account, at least for a while. She said she was seeing a lot of anger about the election, sports teams and other people. She was reading details of people’s lives that were upsetting and way more than she needed to know. She said there was a lack of courtesy and sensitivity that she found distressing. She said checking people’s posts was only making her feel upset and frustrated. She also wanted to send a message to her daughter that we can live without social media. She’s taking a break, a break that will “feed” her in a more nutritious way, and benefit others.
As Lent approaches, I encourage you to think this year about what you need to take a break from. What can you give up that will be helpful to you and to others. Take a break from some busyness to pray and read the Bible. Take a break from Facebook, and send encouraging cards to your friends instead. Give up sodas and donate the money you save to a worthwhile cause. You get the idea. I’m sure you can come up with more.
Here’s more from Isaiah about what will happen if you fast appropriately:
“if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58: 10-11
Writers and readers … please tell me how you plan to take a break.
PS….I wrote this post early Sunday morning and left it in draft to use today. I was astounded when I picked up the church bulleting to discover that this passage from Isaiah was the Old Testament reading! That tells me God is really trying to get the message across to me at least!