How an intense physical exercise can give you a fresh perspective on life
If your relationship with God doesn’t feel that vibrant, I think I found a way to help.
This was my reality last year in the heart of quarantine—defeated by continuous job rejections, lonely in isolation, and lost without in-person services and a spirited faith community. Even though I’ve believed in Jesus most of my life, I never felt more separated from God during the early stages of quarantine.
Fasting over Easter weekend was quite the fix to this drastic problem. In the physically draining test, I got to feel closer to God and gain more confidence in myself. To help make it easier, I even got a group of ten friends to fast with me, from Friday at 3 pm to approximately Sunday at 9 am.
“That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” one friend explained to me, “but weirdly not as hard as I anticipated.” He added that our “whys” behind fasting allowed the seemingly-unbearable task to be much less difficult. We all were close to caving and digging into food at some point, but our reasons for fasting in the first place gave us the will to power through.
Why Fasting Has Power
Whether you’re someone who looks forward to Easter as an anchor of your faith, or you’ve never understood the hype, there’s a TON of power in it that most of us miss. It’s literally the only reason the Christian faith exists or matters. Whether you are a Christ-follower or you’re just curious about why people believe in Jesus, Easter is everything. So it’s worth diving in to really get it.
The reason it matters is that Jesus’ death for us beat all death forever. I know, you’re thinking, um…people still die. Yes, for now. But the more we lean into Jesus’ death and the practice of sacrificing for others, the freer we get of everything else in life that tries to beat us down. Jesus’ death brings actual healing and breakthrough to everyone who believes. This is where fasting comes in.
Let’s face it: nothing can ever be as drastic as Jesus’ sacrifice for us. He chose to become a man and take on hours of grueling pain publicly and humiliatingly in front of hundreds who belittled His name. He willingly chose to suffer intensely. It exceeds anything we can do to show our gratitude for His selfless act. Yet, we can try to remember this as much as possible by offering our own sacrifice.
It’s distressing to go against your body’s base desires for an extended period of time. You better believe when you’re lying awake at night for longer than usual because of the hunger or feeling your stomach grumble after swiping past appetizing food on someone’s social media, your mind will start to drift.
For most people, this is the moment they give up. But the power comes when you leverage the hunger into prayer or something productive like thinking, “I wonder what it was like for Jesus.”
The constant pain of hunger is a great reminder to turn our minds back to Him so he can actually lead more of our life. It’s motivating to crack open the Bible or say a prayer. I can honestly say I read my Bible more in my 40 hours of fasting than I had in the first month of quarantine.
There were surely times when I felt weak physically, but oddly enough that empowered me mentally and spiritually. It brought to mind a Bible verse I’ve heard a couple of times:
“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when i am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
My strong mind could tackle the adversity my body was facing because I had the right foundation to endure discomfort. What we are willing to suffer for shows what we are passionate about. Fasting reminded me of my deep passion for God. Despite the slump I’d been in, I felt connected to God because of the small way I was connecting with him through sacrifice.
How Fasting Rewires Us
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6 16–18).
I was reminded of this Bible verse during my fast, and it taught me a valuable lesson in humility. Unlike a lot of things in life, fasting was something I didn’t want to boast about to other people who weren’t directly involved over the weekend. Seldom do we do a task and not tell others, so this one was more meaningful to keep between me, my fellow friends fasting, and my Creator, who — as the verse says — sees me and rewards me. Fasting is an intimate experience.
At the same time, I also felt the urge not to complain. This was something I willingly took on myself, so I had no right to complain. But more importantly, Jesus didn’t complain during his tremendous suffering, which put any amount of complaining overall into question when thinking about Him. Fasting grounded me to have humble thoughts and words.
How Fasting Builds Resilience
2020 showed us we don’t always have control over what’s happening around us. I especially recognized this as I saw the job market vanish right before my eyes between March to April. I wrongfully associated a large part of my identity to a successful career immediately out of college, and it was the most devastating blow of the year when no luck came my way.
In my defeat, I set out to find a win that would test me to some decent physical limits and one that I had control over. Ah-ha, fasting is the perfect experiment for this. I chose my own suffering to emerge victorious from because I wasn’t winning in anything else — perhaps you feel that way too.
It was empowering to have control over myself — both my body and mind — for 40 continuous hours. It was the most successful I felt in months, and even better, I got to share the memory with ten motivated friends.
Fasting reignited in me a passionate, visible, and at times, palpable relationship with God. It was the right boost my desolate 2020 needed.
“‘Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” (Joel 2 12–13).
Are you looking for something new to strengthen your relationship with God? Do you wonder what you’re spiritually or physically capable of? Have you been lazy or lacked some discipline thus far in 2021? Then I bring to you, highly recommended, fasting — a unique and insightful exercise that’ll challenge and build you like never before.
Do it once, and you’ll be intrigued to repeat the distressful — yet beneficial — process. Fasting doesn’t need to be for the ultra-spiritual people; it can be for anyone looking for something new with God, their friends, or themselves.
Even in an already better year than 2020, I’m going to fast again over this Easter weekend to repeat a time when I felt closest to God.