As promised, Reason Number Two for fasting: wanting the Holy Spirit to control my body, not my stomach.
Until we actually give food up, we have absolutely no idea how much it controls us. That is what I’ve been learning the last four years.
Four years ago, some health problems I’d been having for 12 years were finally diagnosed, and I was told that I needed to give up dairy, gluten, and sugar.
Dairy was no problem, but gluten and sugar? Oh, my word. For the first two weeks, I thought I would go completely crazy. I would lie awake in bed at night, wanting bread or sugar. Or both. It was awful. I couldn’t think about anything else, all day long. I actually cried about it.
But I also prayed about it. It really bothered me that my will and self-control was so weak. It was food, for crying out loud. Could I not give it up? Every time I wanted sweets, I was reminded again and again that self-control is a Fruit of the Spirit, and I obviously needed more of it in my life.
I’ve read that it takes two months of never eating sugar for the cravings to go away completely. Cheat even a little bit, and you’re back at square one.
But the really amazing part is that they actually DO go away completely. The girl who used to inhale Fudgee-O’s and chocolate ice cream does not crave sugar anymore – ever! There are moments when delicious desserts are passed around at the lodge here at camp, and I feel a slight longing sometimes, but it goes away immediately, and I don’t find it hard to turn that stuff down anymore.
Now, I have a lot more motivation than the average person – I know that all sorts of heartburn, stomachaches, and discomfort await me if I ever cheat. But I’ve learned a few things:
- I am stronger than I think I am (in the Holy Spirit, because of self-control being a Fruit of the Spirit)
- It is MUCH easier for me to never cheat than to just cheat a little bit here and there. Example: A few years ago, I was doing some Christmas baking, and baked a large cookie sheet of squares. I was cutting the edges off, and decided to pop a piece in my mouth. And then I decided to do that again. And again. And suddenly I looked down at my pan, and realized that I had eaten all the edges around the entire pan. I can’t do just a little bit. It’s all or nothing.
- The moment of temptation lasts for as long as the item is in reach. I did not keep baked sweets in our house for a long time. Now it doesn’t bother me.
- It gets easier with time.
- When your husband also stops eating sugar (and loses 10 pounds, just like that!), it makes it even easier!
- My body started craving other things. Now, a bowl of fruit is a treat for me. Fresh berries are all the dessert I need.
It is not easy. But it is definitely possible.
And it’s not “just food”. To me, it had to become spiritual. I had to go to God with my physical needs, I had to admit that food was controlling my body in ways that it should not be allowed to do.
While I was eating whatever I felt like, I would crave things all the time, and thought it was normal. Now I don’t really crave things at all, and it is an incredibly wonderful, freeing feeling. I enjoy eating entirely different things than before, and I love it. If I were miraculously healed, and were able to eat absolutely anything I wanted to, I wouldn’t go back. I would never have believed that was possible, but that’s how different my body feels now.
But I do have to clarify that I struggle with self-control in other areas, if not sugar. Corn chips get me every time, and then there are all the non-food things, like gossip, critical comments, etc. I’m kinda hoping that self-control “flows” into other areas with time….
So, maybe I don’t know a ton about fasting, as in “going without any food for an extended period of time”, but I do know about giving up some kinds of food. I’ve also tried fasting from other things, like the internet, reading fiction, anything that has gotten out of balance, and started to control too much of my life.
Ben got me to read about fasting in one of his textbooks, and I came across the following quote:
Fasting is an opportunity to lay down an appetite – an appetite for food, for media, for shopping. This act of self-denial may not seem huge – it’s just a meal or a trip to the mall – but it brings us face to face with the hunger at the core of our being….Through self-denial we begin to recognize that controls us. Our small denials of the self show us how little taste we actually have for sacrifice or time with God. (“Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us”, by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun)
So those are my thoughts. You can gladly leave your thoughts in the comment section! I’m curious how other people feel about fasting.
Bonus Tidbit: If you want extra reading about what sugar is actually doing to your body, check out this article. Interesting, disturbing reading!