By Joel A. Hess –
They had been in love for years. It took some time, of course. It started off rocky, with indiscretions and arguments. But God had blessed them through it all and caused their loyalty and love for each other to blossom. Then, ten years after retirement, she was diagnosed with a terminal illness. He stayed by her side, serving her with all his energy and time. Then, one day, she died in the hospital as he held her hand at her side.
Their kids thought he was a strong man. They wondered what he would do with himself next. But he felt empty without her. Nothing mattered. He couldn’t care less about the frivolities of life. Even eating became a burden. Everything fell to the wayside. He was consumed by that one thing—her.
Do you know anyone like that? Have you experienced this sort of fasting, giving up regular joys of life, even eating? I see it all the time. A spouse dies, and the other doesn’t care about anything else anymore. Or perhaps you have experienced it in a relationship, maybe not through the loss of your spouse but loss through a divorce or break up. Maybe you remember what it was like when you lost your first love. You let everything else fall to the wayside. You were consumed by that one thing—holding her in your arms.
This is unintentional fasting. We do it all the time when we are consumed by one thing. Usually it is a relationship that holds our mind hostage. Nothing else matters. We even stop eating.
This is this gist of fasting. The people of God have fasted throughout the history of Scriptures and the Church. Sometimes it was not intentional, like when the people of Nineveh realized they deserved God’s wrath. They dropped everything. But often it is intentional in order to be consumed by that one thing—God and His Word and promises.
To fast is to let go of the ordinary things of life, even food, in order to be consumed by that one concern—your relationship with God in Jesus Christ. That is the only thing that ultimately matters.
It is good for the Church to call for fasts, such as the one during Lent. It is not a demand or requirement for salvation. It’s not a good work to please others or God, per se. The things we give up, especially food, are not bad or evil at all; they are even gifts of God! Yet, fasting helps us focus. It helps us to recognize the one thing we cannot live without—the promise of Jesus.
We have so much in this country that steals our attention away from that one thing. Entertainment, our career, shopping, stuff, food. They in themselves might not be bad, even good gifts of God. Yet, we use all these things to give us meaning and purpose. They can even become our gods. We sacrifice for them. We forget the One who is true and who loves us. We don’t live by His promise of forgiveness and eternal life, the one promise that is certain. But we trust all other vain promises of the world.
I encourage you to skip meals and replace them with prayer, yearning, and reminders of God’s promises to you. I encourage you to allow that One thing, Jesus Christ and His promises, to consume you once again, to return to your first love.
I encourage you to fast because Jesus fasted. Forty days in the desert he went without food as we was consumed by one thing! Often we see him going to top of mountain to fast and pray, consumed by one thing.
And then, on the cross, Jesus couldn’t care less about food or even water as he ultimately fasted, saying, “I thirst.” He was consumed by one thing!
Nothing else mattered from the cradle to the cross. Jesus was consumed by that one thing—you—and restoring your relationship, the one you broke and so quickly wander from, to God.
God could not get you off His mind! That He sent his only son to do one thing—conquer sin and death! To love us to the end and to bring us back to him!
Let us fast to Easter, not because we want to prove our love to him so that he might love us. But let us fast in joy because He loves us! Let us fast for joy, fully enjoy that love, and be consumed by it! It is all we need!