I am writing this in the midst of A.S.K., a time when our church sets aside time to seek God, taking Him up on His promise that if we ask, He will give us his Holy Spirit (see Luke 11:5-12). Part of A.S.K. is a call to fast, and I am hoping that most of you are refraining from some form of media and/or other physical appetite. But this raises the question: Why? What good can come from intentionally depriving oneself of a habit or luxury? Furthermore, what does this have to do with our life with God?
Rather than give an apologetic for the value of fasting, I want to challenge you to answer the question for yourself. Pay attention to what is happening in your soul as you deny your craving. What is it you want when you check social media or watch Netflix — to check up on friends, entertainment, or maybe just fill the boredom of the moment? Is there something more you are looking for or avoiding? What about your craving for sugar or caffeine or that special treat? How much of your desire is truly met by the thing? Be warned, it can be difficult to tease out what is driving our appetites. Yet, I contend this is essential work for spiritual growth.
I am reminded of what the prophet Isaiah wrote:
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare. (Isaiah 55:2)
Long before digital media, people have been giving themselves to things that do not satisfy. Yet, the invitation of God remains, “Listen to me…and you will delight in the richest of fare.” Jeremiah said it another way, “Search for me and you will find me when you search for me with your whole heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).
Last night during prayer, I was reminded of how easy it is to fill my life with things that really do not satisfy. Oddly, this sort of life — one filled with everything and nothing — lulls me into complacency. While praying, God was shining his light on how quickly we stop seeking Him; the good news is that He is constantly working to get our attention. Sometimes God’s work comes in the form of troubles and hard times, and sometimes it comes in the form of deep dissatisfaction or a longing for more. Here, the enemy comes to us with lies like, “You are on your own,” “Things will never change,” or “What you need is ____ (a drink, a vacation, a shopping trip, Netflix…).” Amidst it all, the Spirit continues quietly inviting us to seek Him with our whole heart.
If you are reading this during the week of A.S.K., I challenge you to make some time to join us for prayer. If the time has passed or you simply cannot come, no worries, but the invitation remains, “Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened” (Luke 11:9).