What’s the point of fasting?

As I write this, Lent started a week ago.

While I am not part of a liturgical denomination of Christianity that formally observes this season, I choose to participate in this activity, as I feel it has value in my spiritual growth and development.

In years past, I have given up all electronic entertainment for the 46 days encompassing Lent – no video or mobile games, Netflix, etc. I would use that time instead for more constructive activities – reading, getting enough sleep, and praying.

After a few years, I learned to keep my electronic entertainment in a healthier balance throughout the year.

This year, I chose to give up all sweets – no cookies, cake, ice cream, brownies…you know, all the good stuff. Stuff I eat WAY too much of. So for another 5 and a half weeks, I’ll be looking longingly at the ice cream aisle in Walmart, but not going in there to buy anything.

Read this: The best way to resist the temptations in your life 

Why am I doing this? Why is fasting – of any sort – so commonly implemented in Christian practice? In part, it is to learn discipline. Learning to say “no” to what doesn’t truly matter so we can say “yes” to more important things which do matter.

But another reason is found in Exodus 25. Here are verses 19-22, where God is telling Moses how to decorate the cover of the Ark of the Covenant (called the mercy seat.)

Mold the cherubim on each end of the atonement cover, making it all of one piece of gold. The cherubim will face each other and look down on the atonement cover. With their wings spread above it, they will protect it. Place inside the Ark the stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant, which I will give to you. Then put the atonement cover on top of the Ark. I will meet with you there and talk to you from above the atonement cover between the gold cherubim that hover over the Ark of the Covenant. From there I will give you my commands for the people of Israel. (emphasis mine)

God says His presence is in the space between the angels’ wings on top of the Ark. In other words, God will “be present” where there is a gap. An open area. A nothingness.

God is not in the box, or the gold, or the beautiful statues. God is where space has been left for him.

I believe this is valuable insight for us. Valuable enough that I keep a model of the Ark on my desk to remind me that I must leave open space in my life if I want to talk with God. In fact, during the musical part of worship in weekend services, I often put my hands in front of my chest facing one another, but not touching. And I prayerfully ask God to come and fill the places in my life where I have created space for him to come and fill and reside.

Where are the places in your life where you are leaving gaps and inviting God to fill the open space? It could be occasional fasting, It could be setting aside time to listen. It could be giving away physical possessions.

Because God rarely barges in and demands our attention. Instead, He awaits our invitation. It’s silly that God, who created the universe, would do this, but it’s because he’s not interested in dominating us. He wants to have a relationship with us. This means we have to be willing because God lets us choose.

So whether you decide to participate in a season like Lent or not, make room for God, and watch Him fill that space.

Now read this: Why it seems that God isn’t working in your life 

This post originally appeared on Making Faith Practical and was republished with permission.

Thomas Christianson is a writer, speaker and professor living in the Baltimore area. He also serves as a Campus Director of Lighthouse church. He is the author of the upcoming book, The Unreasonable Jesus: Becoming the Person He Made You to Be. You can visit his website at makingfaithpractical.com for more articles and info.


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