by Linda Veath Cox
The Israelites were complaining to God. Again. “Why have we fasted and You have not seen?”
God’s reply was blunt. “You haven’t been living according to My commands.”
The Israelites were fasting but their lives were no different than when they weren’t fasting. They weren’t using their fasts to praise and honor God or to live as He had commanded them to live. They had allowed fasting to turn into ordinary, rote, pious exercises rather than times of prayer accompanied by growth in and service to the Lord. So God had reason to be unhappy. The kind of fast He wanted from His people is spelled out in Isaiah 58:6-7:
Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens,
to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
when you see the naked, that you cover him,
and not hide yourself from your own flesh? (NKJV)
Now, I have to admit that I have often wondered how these verses related to fasting. Just what are we fasting from? What are we giving up?
And then it all became very clear—we are fasting from ourselves. Me. Myself. And I.
Because to do the things listed in those verses, we have to put ourselves—our wants, our desires, our needs, our time—aside and instead focus on the needs of others. Spend time with them. Share food and clothing with them. Open our homes to them. Not look the other way when we see someone in need.
That’s not to say that other forms of fasting can’t be pleasing to God. But pleasing God is more than not eating or drinking. It even goes beyond our own personal growth. God wants us to reach out to others in acts of kindness and compassion.
So, let’s declare a time of fasting from Me, Myself, and I and perform an act of kindness for another person. It doesn’t have to be something big. God will multiply whatever we offer to Him. And in doing so we’ll find that with God’s help we really don’t miss Me, Myself, and I much at all.