So, you love Jesus, and you used to (or still) struggle with an eating disorder. I hear you, friend.
“Struggle? More like full-on death match.” Yes. I know.
But now you’re feeling led to participate in a corporate fast, or a personal fast… Or you’ve heard about this spiritual discipline of fasting, but it feels completely unrealistic. Or maybe it sounds like an awesome opportunity to shed some of that holiday weight.
Every January our church invites everyone to participate in a corporate fast. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m really looking forward to it. Fasting has given my spiritual eyes new focus when they were feeling super fuzzy. I’ve heard clear direction from God and seen some pretty incredible miracles take place. Fasting is a biblical mandate that isn’t always discussed in churches these days, and I’m grateful for my leaders for educating us on this important practice.
But for those of us with food-related issues (past or present), the idea of a fast can be overwhelmingly terrifying and, frankly, super triggering. So, for my friends who are in this spot but still reallyreally want to participate in a fast, I have some thoughts.
- The good news: You aren’t disqualified from fasting.
Fasting doesn’t have to involve food. Sometimes, we just need to let ourselves off the hook. If you’re medically compromised or on a physician/dietitian prescribed diet, don’t mess with it unless you’re in sync with your treatment team. Period. If you’re on certain meds that require you to eat at certain times, stay on that schedule. God is not limited by your limitations. Not in any way.
Pastor Les describes the “Fast Zone” – that sweet spot where we find ourselves unhindered/un-distracted and spiritually receptive. If your meds are out of whack, you’re not going to be in your Fast Zone. If you’re compromising your health, you’re not in your Fast Zone.
News Flash: God knows your situation – the whole sum of it. He sees your heart, He is beside-Himself giddy with excitement that you want to connect with Him on a deeper level through fasting. He’s going to direct you if you’ll put your own overactive brain on pause and listen. There are plenty of gunky non-food things that we can sacrifice for the sake of a fast.
2. Do not slip into legalistic territory.
If you are physically and mentally healthy enough to go the fasting food route, keep your heart wide open before God and do not let yourself slip into legalistic territory. See, people with eating disorders can be SUPER disciplined. These friends are some of the most determined and calculating people I have ever met. It just happens to be misdirected at times.
Say you decide to forego meats and sweets for a ten-day fast. You’ve decided, and now it’s an internal mandate.
There is a difference between a healthy person who has committed to fast in a certain way and someone with disordered thinking who has absolutely sworn off certain foods. Can you see the difference?
In God’s economy, there is no condemnation, only mercy, grace (supernatural empowerment), and perfect, flawless love. You have to give yourself permission to be flexible in your fast. What worked yesterday may not work today.
Tip: If you are feeling stressed out about planning meals, feeling guilty for “messing up,” and are terrified by the thought of failing, you’re not in your Fast Zone.
Yes, we need to be disciplined and not follow every whim of our flesh, but if you’ve ever been under the thumb of an eating disorder, you know you can be disciplined. Even the chaos of addictive cycles are disciplined, in a way. If you’ve ever structured your entire day around specific behaviors, that is discipline… albeit misdirected at best.
Hold the fast in open hands before God. Don’t fret and worry about whether or not Stevia counts as a “sweet” or whether the butter you put in your mashed cauliflower is going to derail your relationship with God. (It seems silly, but I have honestly had these thoughts.) The breath of heaven is LIFE. The pain of a fast is the two-year-old tantrum your flesh throws when you say “no” to Starbucks. It is not the agony of shame that comes with an eating disorder and its behaviors.
3. Make sure you seek accountability.
Honestly, I feel like accountability in this is super important. Tell someone who knows about your struggle what you’re planning, and then give them permission to call you out. Don’t get mad or defensive, just listen. If they tell you that you’ve drifted, then trust them and re-evaluate. The reason you’ve asked them to hold you accountable in the first place is so that you are sure to have unbiased eyes looking at your situation.
I’ve done this unintentionally every time. My best friend knows my brain pretty darn well. She is an amazing reality check for me when I start to wander off course. (Adding pregnancy/nursing to the mix while fasting and trying to maintain a healthy perspective just requires some outside input… for sure.)
Ok? Is that helpful? I’m here to tell you that I’ve done all kinds of different fasts, and God has been faithful to meet me every, single time. He is just so thrilled that your heart is inclined toward Him. He adores you more than you can fathom, no matter where in this process you find yourself. Give yourself as much love and forgiveness as you’d give a friend in your situation. And be willing to make course corrections along the way.
Ok, that’s all. Love to you all.