I’ll feel the hunger pangs begin in the middle of the afternoon and start to crave the bowl of creamy broccoli soup I’ve planned for supper. The aroma in the kitchen has been teasing me for hours and when I sit down with my simple meal this evening, I will notice how enticing the flecks of coarsely ground pepper appear floating above the beautiful blend of green and white nourishment in my bowl. And when the combined flavors of that seemingly delectable dish touch my tongue, the satisfaction will be greater than any ordinary meal. Because I’m hungry. Very hungry. I’m fasting for Lent.
Hunger is the sharpest of appetites. Experiencing hunger teaches me what it feels like to really yearn for something, to deeply crave the object of my desire. If I consume food when I’m not so hungry, I miss this. The act of eating what might be considered a really great meal is not quite so pleasurable when I don’t have a good appetite for it.
I fast during Lent because I want to express to God that I have an intense longing only he can satisfy. Craving food when I feel like I’m starving can be compared to my deepest desire for the spiritual blessing I receive from my relationship with God. I want to continue to draw upon his wisdom and guidance. I want to know I can depend upon my Provider to quiet the cravings when I’m presented with temptation. During Lent, I’m asking God to fill me up with spiritual food.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 5:6
If I want to be full of God, I have to empty myself of other things. In preparation for his public ministry, Jesus intensified his prayers by adding fasting during the 40 days he spent in the wilderness. With Christ as my example, fasting is a way to focus my prayer life during the Lenten journey, the 40-day period of preparation for Easter. It’s a spiritual discipline that helps to break my attachment to physical things and focus it instead on my Savior and his sacrifice on the cross.
When I am hungry, I identify with the poor who don’t have enough to eat. I develop a compassion for giving to them. For me, this sense of mission extends to those who are poor in spirit. I know the satisfaction of receiving spiritual food from God through faith. I value this for myself and deeply desire this for others. I want those apart from Christ to discover the Gospel message and to become spiritually enlightened. I want them to be filled with God’s righteousness and all of the good gifts that follow. My great longing is that all will be so saturated with spiritual blessing that none will need to seek joy and peace elsewhere.
When I go to bed hungry on these Lenten nights, I think about those who are needy for spiritual food and I ask God to shape me into an ambassador suitable for showing the way to the blessing of being filled with him.
Do you practice the discipline of fasting during Lent? If so, please share any spiritual insights or other benefits you gain. If not, are you willing to give fasting a try?