By Cindy Wubben
Have you ever fasted on purpose? Skipping lunch because you are too busy to stop and eat doesn’t count. An interesting topic to entertain heading into the holiday season, but studies have shown that fasting is good for the body, mind, and soul.
There are various kinds of fasting including intermittent, alternate day, and water only, just to name a few. Research, documented in Healthline, shows that one of the benefits of fasting is that it aids in controlling your blood sugar and reduces insulin resistance. Another physical benefit to fasting is that it has been proven to reduce inflammation and promote overall better health. Fasting has been shown also to promote brain function and possibly help prevent neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. One study showed that “rats that fasted every other day experienced a delayed rate of aging and lived 83% longer than rats that didn’t fast.” Another study was a test-tube study that “showed that exposing cancer cells to several cycles of fasting was as effective as chemotherapy in delaying tumor growth and increased the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs on cancer formation.” This research was conducted on cells and animals but still interesting to note.
The Bible mentions fasting around 77 times. There are various reasons to fast listed in the scriptures. In Ezra 8:23, it was to strengthen prayer. In 1 Samuel 7:6, it was to express repentance. In Judges 20:26, it was to seek God’s guidance. In 1 Kings 21:27-29, it was to humble oneself before God. The Bible also gives instruction on how to fast. It is to be done in private so that it is a reverent act between the one fasting and God. “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you,” Matthew 6:16-18. Interesting that the verse says, “when” you fast, rather than, “if” you fast, assuming that people would be doing this discipline on a regular basis. Perhaps God knew that fasting was beneficial?
I remember vividly the first time I fasted for a Biblical purpose. It was around 10am when the hunger pangs started to set in. My focus for a majority of the day was not on prayer at all, but merely getting through the day without eating. I did drink water, but I sadly noticed that my struggle was more mental than physical. I didn’t need food throughout the day, but when I wasn’t allowed to have it, it all of a sudden became my focus. I learned at that moment how reliant I had become on physical comfort and that my relationship with it, in this instance food, was rather unhealthy. My Biblical purpose for fasting that day was useless since I spent very little time in prayer and when I did pray I said something like, “God please help me not to think about food all day today.” Since then, I have taken steps toward training my mind to help my body understand the purpose of fasting.
For me personally though, a multiple day fast is more beneficial for Biblical purposes than a single day fast since I can often spend a part of the first day thinking about my deprivation rather than what I’m supposed to be focusing on. By the second or third day, I am use to the hunger pangs, which do subside believe it or not, realize I’m not going to die from lack of food, and am more in tune with God without the distractions. A more mentally disciplined person can probably get that the first or second day, but it sometimes takes me longer. I inevitably learn things about myself through the process of fasting that I don’t think I would have learned any other way. In a society where we are blessed with comforts of life, it’s good, for me anyway, to strip some of those things away, food in this instance, and focus on things that are more meaningful and selfless. It also makes me painfully aware of how absorbed I can get on the day-to-day things rather than thinking long-term or eternal. Depending on personal beliefs, fasting will mean different things to different people, but regardless, the research shows that it’s beneficial. Consider trying it sometime to see what insights you get as a result. Of course, I am not in the medical field so please consult your physician if you have any health issues or plan to fast for more than 24 hours. I learn something new every time I do it, which most likely means, there are a lot of areas in my life in which growth needs to occur. I absolutely know that’s true since as I sit here writing this blog, I am over- eating Halloween candy. Probably a sign that it’s time for me to fast again. :)
Cindy Wubben | Director of Human Resources