The first couple days of an extended fast are always difficult. If you are doing some type of food fast, no doubt the craving and desire for that thing you are abstaining from eating is starting to drive you a little crazy! Maybe until this moment, you did not realize how much you really enjoyed your mocha cappuccinos in the morning, your donut in the afternoon, or that plate of sushi for supper (Personally, I could pass on the sushi!). In short, the reason week one of a fast is so difficult is because you are saying no to the urges you have developed a habit of saying yes to for quite some time.
But week one is also extremely liberating. As you are going through the pains of withdraw, gradually the screams of your physical desires will decrease while the spiritual voice of God increases. You are doing what the Apostle Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 9:25-27.
25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
The means to which great athletes go to discipline their bodies is incredible. PGA Tour golfer John Daly spoke of almost starving himself to death on one occasion because his coach wanted him to lose weight. Former NFL linebacker Ray Lewis talks about maintaining a diet that was so strict that he would only eat sweets on Thanksgiving and Christmas. And various boxers and MMA fighters have gone for weeks or even months at a time, eating little more than an orange a day, in their effort to make a certain weight class before a fight.
As Christians, the discipline of bringing our bodies under control is incredibly important. In some ways, it can be more difficult than the one who is in the boxing ring. Reason: For the boxer, there is an obvious goal and reward in mind. There are trainers to provide accountability. There is the constant fear of what will happen to their careers if they do not reach the weight limit they are seeking to hit.
However, for the believer who decides to turn off the desires of this world to seek after God, the motivation to continue this discipline for days on end can be overwhelming. And after a few days of fasting, the urge to give up can grow stronger and stronger. That little voice in your head starts saying, “Take it easy! This whole fasting thing is insane, and besides, who cares if you break the fasting commitment you have made?!”
If this is where you are at, I sympathize! But let me just tell you why I would urge you to continue. The greatest spiritual blessings in this life often are experienced after pushing through a continued season of self-denial. While it may not feel very spiritual to drink a smoothie rather than eat a steak, I can assure you that it is worth it to continue. This first week is not about experiencing an emotional high or spiritual buzz. It is about positioning and quieting yourself to hear the voice of God.
My encouragement to you in this week of the fast would be to put on hold the possible litany of prayer requests that you might have for God. Instead, just be still before him. Read much of his Word. Feast on the Psalms. Allow the physical brokenness that you might feel in your body to translate into spiritual brokenness before God. Journal your prayers to him. Spend extensive parts of your day focused on his character and goodness.
As you are doing this in week 1, begin to seek God’s face about how he would have you to pray in the remaining two weeks. Allow him to shift your priorities (Often this might not happen until days 5-7 of the fast). Then trust that as you draw near and pour out your heart before him, he will draw near and pour out his heart to you.
How is this fast changing your life or challenging you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!