I was never very keen on depriving myself of things. Whenever I tried to “give up” on chocolate, sodas, television, or boys, I always found myself even more attracted to them.
Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever made a new year resolution to give up pasta and the very next day decide that you don’t want anyone to call you a “quitter” so you have a great big bowl of fettucini alfredo?
Or maybe you’re the person (like me) who has decided to give up something not-so-meaningful for a brief time. I once gave up coffee for a few months. I had only just started to drink it and I wasn’t going to miss it – at all, so the fast didn’t mean anything to me. (Don’t ask me to give up coffee now…ain’t gonna happen.)
Or…maybe you have succeeded with a fast! You gave up cake, cigarettes, alcohol, gossip, shopping, or fast food for a period. Good for you! But let me ask you – how did that work out for you in the long run? Did you jump right back into your old habits? Too many sweets, a bottle of wine after work, maxing your credit card the moment you allowed yourself to shop again…
There is a better way to fast…spiritually, physically, and mentally.
A: Fasting is making yourself vulnerable to Adversity.
You’re basically tempting the universe to test you! In Western society, we believe and place great value in our individuality, yet when we try to assert ourselves and remove ourselves from a certain group (smokers, chocoholics, etc.) we subconsciously rebel because we are consciously altering our identity. Adversity is sure to come when we challenge our identity. Consider it this way: not only are you challenging your own identity – “I’m a retail therapy junkie but I’m going to quit spending so much” – you are also covertly challenging those around you who share that identity – “you’re a gossip and that is bad. I know, because I’m giving it up.” That is the perfect recipe for adversity. Here are some ideas to help you through:
- remove temptation
- seek support
- make it count
If smoking is your vice, you have got to completely remove yourself from any and all situations in which you might be tempted to smoke. Stay away from friend groups that smoke. Try to reduce your stress by attending a yoga class. Don’t shop in convenience stores where cigarettes are easily accessible and staring back at you from behind the counter.
Likewise, as you remove yourself from unhealthy situations, join in on healthier options. Find a running group. Seek a counselor to help you kick your addiction. Tell your loved ones you would like them to hold you accountable. And for goodness sake, don’t give something up just because everyone else is – give it up because you mean it! Stop smoking because you know it is killing you and everyone around you. Stop smoking because you don’t want to be excluded from social gathering because you have to go outside for a smoke. Quit smoking because you desperately desire to, not just “to see if I can…”
B: Challenge your Beliefs.
We all hold certain beliefs to be true about ourselves and our environment. Sometimes these beliefs are positive and create health and well-being in our lives. Other times, these beliefs limit us and place us at odds with our truth. If you are going to fast, you have to be ready to challenge those negative beliefs about yourself and embrace the truths about you that are empowering. Here are some truths for you to claim:
I am loved (John 3:16).
You are LOVED – unconditionally, without having to do any special favors or any good deeds.
I am God’s handiwork (Ephesians 2:10).
You are created by a mighty Creator who made you unique and gave you a life of purpose.
I am known (Jeremiah 1:5).
You are not alone. You are not an outcast. God knows you. He knew you before you were born. He understands you and all your infinite intricacies.
I am forgiven (Psalm 32:1).
Regardless of what you have done, you are forgiven. God sent Jesus to this earth to take away your sins. Nothing you do can separate you from the love of your heavenly Father.
Repeat those declarations to yourself. Repeat them out loud! Tell everyone you know that you are loved, that you were made in the image of a mighty God, that your God knows you and that He forgives you…even in your imperfection.
C: Realize that there are Consequences for your actions.
Whether you succeed with your fast, or you relapse, there are consequences. Within each moment, you have the power to make the right choice. I often suggest that my clients carry a card in their back pocket with a smiley face on one side and a frown face on the other. Whenever a situation presents itself that seems like a “rock and a hard place” scenario, this card can remind you that there is a choice.
You always have a choice. What it really comes down to, in any situation, is this: there is a path that leads you to your truth and there is a path that leads you away from your truth. The path to truth is in alignment with your values and honors the unique creation that you are. The path away from your truth goes against your values and is generally the easier path to follow.
If you have chosen to fast for Lent, I commend you and I pray that this brief article helps you succeed. If you are not fasting, but think that maybe you should, I would love to walk along side you!
To your success,