There is no thrill from buying something in the store that will take the place of being anchored to God through his Word and prayer.
Let's face it; fasting is difficult. No matter how long you've done it for or what you fasted from, it's never easy to go without your favorite foods and solely focus on the word. Yet, the Lord chose this as a spiritual discipline to keep him close to his Father. As we strive to be more Christ-like in our demeanor, we all need to practice spiritual disciplines that will help us sacrifice to become more like Him.
Having said this, we should fast in private so that only the Lord can see our sacrifice. Matthew 6:16-18 says, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” The disciplines we choose to honor God with should be done in private and not in public so people can reward you with their encouragement and applause.
But not everyone can fast from food. Due to medical conditions that were not popular back in Jesus’ time, some people can't fast from food. People with diabetes, for example, must eat every three to four hours to keep their blood sugar stabilized. They cannot go long periods without eating, or else they may feel faint, have a sugar crash, or worse. Additionally, people with hypoglycemia also have the same issue. Therefore, they cannot participate in the spiritual discipline of fasting.
Or can they?
There are many ways we can practice fasting without it being food. Here are some ways I learned to this still participate in the spiritual discipline of fasting but not fasting from food:
Fast from Music
First, I learned to fast from music. As a person who grew up in the 80s, 80s music is my favorite. It's one of my favorite ways to unwind from a long day and remember a simpler time in my life. However, God sometimes asks me to fast from music so I can focus solely on him. I may fast from 80s music but only engage in worship music. This can be done at any length of time. It can be a day, a week, or a longer period (like three to seven days). I also notice I am more peaceful and relaxed when I'm listening to worship music than when I'm listening to anything else. God wants me to worship only him, and music can become an idol in my life if I'm not careful.
Fast from Social Media
Second, I can fast from social media. Although I don't spend an incredible amount of time scrolling through Facebook or posting tweets, I can become self-focused on gaining likes and followers for the sake of my profession. When I'm too focused on that and not focused enough on what God wants me to do, it's best for me to choose to fast from social media to shift my perspective and spend my time praying and reading the Word.
Fast from All Media
Third, I can fast from all media. This includes music, television, the internet, and my phone. In my senior year of college, my communications teacher challenged all of us to do a media fast. She asked us to go for one day without being bombarded by media. From the moment I started, it proved quite difficult. For example, when people at my job turned on a movie for the kids at the after-school program, I had to leave the room. However, I failed the challenge when I hurt my foot and had to go to the hospital. Being wheeled into the main lobby, I was forced to look at the TV screen that was on in the waiting room. In that moment, I realized media is all around us. We are constantly bombarded by advertisements, news from many different outlets, and social media. All of these things vie for our attention and try to get us to shape our beliefs and values and what we see. However, God wants us to shape our worldview through the Word. When we take the time we would spend on media and focus it on God's Word, our bodies and minds are renewed, and we are able to effectively work for the Kingdom.
Fast from a Favorite Drink
Fourth, I can fast from my favorite drink. I may not be able to skip entire meals, but I can abstain from drinking coffee, tea, or other products that have stimulants that can harm my body. I can also abstain from a favorite juice or other beverage and drink only water instead. This is a way I can reset my physical body to not only abstain from drinking beverages with dyes and chemicals that cause me harm, but I can also become more hydrated by drinking natural water that God has provided to quench our thirst.
Fast from a Favorite Activity
Fifth, I can fast from a favorite activity, such as shopping or reading books. Although these things are not harmless by themselves, if I want to practice the spiritual discipline of fasting, it will require me to sacrifice doing some of the things I love for a short period of time so I can get refocused on God. There is no thrill from buying something in the store that will take the place of being anchored to God through his Word and prayer.
Fast from Free Time
Sixth, instead of spending my free time on things I want to do, I can tithe my time and give back to my community. The time I spend watching television or listening to music could be spent helping out at a soup kitchen or food pantry. There are many needs in my community, and I only have to stop and look to see where I could be used. Not only will this be a better use of my time but also keep me focused on God.
Fast from a Favorite Dessert or Food
Seventh, if you would still like to use your fasting on food but can't skip meals entirely, you can choose to fast from a favorite dessert or food. The point of fasting is not what you sacrifice but rather your demeanor while you're sacrificing. If you're fasting but are angry at God that you must do this, it's better not to do it at all. God uses these activities in our lives to reset our focus and allow us to be used at our full potential.
Fasting is one of the more difficult things God asked us to do to keep ourselves focused on him. Although fasting never gets easy, fasting from things other than food will still teach us perseverance and character if we strive to meet our goals of giving up our favorite things and opt to use our time with the Lord. God is pleased with whatever we choose to fast. Above all, he wants us to be cheerful when we do it, giving glory and thanks to God through everything.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Urupong
Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.