Too Hungry to Fast

ABOUT KRISSY SMITH, GUEST CONTRIBUTOR:  My name is Krissy Smith and I’m a wife and mother of 4 kids ranging in ages from 3-21. I’ve lived in Colorado most of my life and think most clearly when I can see the Rocky Mountains. I am passionate about talking to people and hearing their stories whether it is a business partner at work, a mother in a developing country or a neighbor down the street.

I am so thankful for the work I get to do on a daily basis. For the past 13 years, I’ve been working at Compassion International as an advocate for children living in poverty. My work allows me to see the chains of injustice and poverty being broken on a daily basis because people are choosing to make a difference in Jesus’ name.

I’m an East Indian preacher’s kid and growing up in the Indian church we had all sorts of rules to follow in our home. On Sunday mornings, we had additional rules to go with our already strict Monday through Saturday rules.  A few of them included:

  • No TV on Sunday mornings
  • No reading the newspaper before church.
  • Learn memory verses
  • ALWAYS wear your Sunday best.

One of the biggest rules in our house was that we were not allowed to eat on Sunday mornings before church. I knew we were supposed to be “fasting” but I was never really sure why we were fasting. As a kid, all I really knew was that I was hungry and wanted to sneak a little snack, even if it was just a piece of bread when nobody was looking. My brothers and I would count down the hours, minutes and seconds until church ended and we could dive into lunch.  Fasting was made especially difficult on Sunday mornings because after church, our house would be filled with guests, so our mom would start cooking early and the house would be filled with the smells of our favorite foods. Talk about struggles!

Somehow, I guess I knew that fasting was important to my parents, so it should’ve been important to me. But I just didn’t get it. My parents never explained the purpose of fasting to me, maybe thinking I was too young to understand or maybe they just wanted me to be disciplined from a young age.

But that lack of understanding about fasting followed me for years. As a young-adult, I still struggled with knowing what to do on Sunday mornings. Was it wrong to eat breakfast? Was it wrong to not fast? The years of ingrained behavior made me feel like I was breaking an unwritten rule by eating when I did.  But then again, not eating breakfast, but making a mad rush to the buffet line at lunch made me feel that I was missing the point as well.

It’s funny that sometimes what we learn as children become the things that we carry into adulthood believing that’s how we should live the rest of our lives. We sometimes don’t even know why we do certain things, but since it’s familiar, we carry on the pattern. Do we do things simply because our parents told us to do them as kids? Do we know what the scriptural basis is for things we practice, preach and pray?

 

The topic of fasting left quite an impression on my young mind, so as an adult I’ve looked into it on my own and Isaiah 58 jumps out at me:

5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

 6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

 Can you imagine? Our fasting is meant to loosen the chains of injustice, set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

I never would have known that had I not opened up the scripture and read it for myself. My act of not eating is actually a battle against oppression.

It says specifically that’s what happens when I fast. Fasting is not meant to make me look holy and perfect to God. It’s meant to bring life, hope and relief to those around me. When I am hungry, I will see the hunger in the eyes of my brothers and sisters around me. When I am thirsty, my eyes will be open to the thirsty around me who need so desperately to hear about Jesus through my love for them.

Why is that so hard for us as Christians to understand? There are people all around us every day who need a little relief, but often we’re so caught up in self-motivated fasting.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t pray for good things in our lives, but too often we are fasting and praying for a winning game, a good grade, the perfect spouse, a bigger house, a better job, a better location, better looks. We often compare ourselves to those around us and feel dissatisfied with the blessings we have which lead us on a path to pray for more.  This, my friends, is the type of fasting that God despises. The kind of fasting where we are left wondering why God isn’t hearing our prayer, but we forget that in His word, he’s told us in Isaiah 58:9b-10,

 “If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.”

It’s kind of hard to believe isn’t it? That God would be so harsh in addressing us about our role in taking care of the poor? We sometimes doubt that He meant that for us specifically.  Maybe taking care of the poor isn’t always forefront in our minds and maybe all we need is some direction in life and some answers to prayer. So, if that’s what we need, why wouldn’t we follow his word? Verses 8 and 9a say:

“Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”

I want that! I want that for myself, for my family, for my friends and for you!

It’s sometimes a hard concept for us as a new generation of Christians in a multi-cultural world to understand that the mandate still remains for us to reach out to the lost and the hurting…to put someone else’s need above our wants for bigger, better and bolder…to be the answer to the prayer of a child in need or a neighbor in want. The truth of scripture has not changed.

10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

 It’s interesting to me how God uses the “If/Then” statement to explain His intense meaning. IF you do this, THEN you will see the light. Amazing isn’t it? My fasting, isn’t meant to make me look good or holy to my parents or my church. It is meant to battle the wickedness and oppression that exists to debilitate and strip my fellow man of dignity and hope. If I don’t step into the battle, then it becomes my sin that gets in the way of another person’s freedom.

My prayer is that God will allow us to see that we can do something on a daily basis to reach beyond ourselves and to help those in need. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Fasting is one of the most powerful and necessary weapons we have been given to fight against the darkness and oppression in the world. It’s not just a chance to go hungry, but an opportunity to do some serious battle for the kingdom.

As an adult and mom of four kids, I understand the value of spiritual practices and, I’m actually really thankful for a lot of the rules I grew up with. In hindsight, I know those rules were intended to help me focus on getting into a head space for worship, not to cause me to struggle. Of course, as a kid, I just felt like my parents were being unreasonable. The thing is that as a parent, I’ve seen the need for discipline in my life and in my kids’ lives and I’ve been able to share with them why I fast as a follower of Jesus and why it’s so important for us to make a conscious decision to take a stand and change the world around us with the weapons we’ve been given.

The question is: Will you step forward and allow Him to use you? Will you fast in a way that pleases the Lord? Will you be the one who is called Repairer of Broken Walls and Restorer of Streets with Dwellings? (Isaiah 58: 12)

Questions:

  1. Do you fast and pray? If not, what’s preventing you?
  2. What is your perspective on poverty?
  3. What is God’s perspective on poverty?
  4. What is your motivation for fasting?
  5. What are you teaching your children about fasting?
  6. What do you consider as injustice?
  7. How does your mindset change when you read Isaiah 58:6?
  8. What is something you can do today to loosen the chains of injustice for someone around you?
  9. What can you do this week to share your food with the hungry or provide the poor wanderer with shelter? How can you clothe the naked?