Lent/Liturgical Seasons/My Faith

Is This What You Call a Fast?

I really like lent. I love this yearly opportunity to scale back and turn towards God. I love a good excuse to start better habits again and draw closer to God in prayer. However, this year it isn’t feeling quite right.

Usually I do the whole fasting thing to the extreme. I still take care of myself but I give up a lot of extra things like chocolate, candy, meat, cheese, etc. the list goes on. But this year, in accordance with the Year of Mercy and the constant instruction from my spiritual director and confessor to be more gentle with myself I scaled back on my fasting a bit. At first, it was great but we are now a couple weeks into lent and I just feel like I’m not doing enough. I feel like I’m lent-ing all wrong.

Have you been there too? Not sure if you’re doing enough? Or if you know how to lent at all? The Israelites were there too. Not necessarily about lent but about fasting in general. In the book of Isaiah they complain (classic Israelites) to the Lord about how he isn’t responding to their fast, how they fast and he doesn’t even take note of it. God responds in His faithfulness through the prophet Isaiah and says “Is this what you call a fast? A day acceptable to the Lord?” To which I would say, have you ever tried to not eat sweets Abba? It’s no picnic.

However, God isn’t saying our personal fasts are bad or wrong. He just wants more (classic). He desires a fast in which we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and refuse to turn our backs on each other.

And I love this about the Lord. He is constantly calling us deeper but not in the ways we expect. He isn’t asking me to only eat rice for lent (however, if that’s what he has called you to, more power to ya). He’s calling me to serve others. And not only in the ways I typically think of, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, etc. but in this passage God adds that we cannot turn our backs on our brothers and sisters in Christ.

And this can be tough.

How do we not turn away from those who gossip about us? Those who have rejected us? Those who judge?

How do we love those who need it the most even when it’s inconvenient for us? We serve others. We speak well of them. We pray for them. We give our time and talents to those in need. We serve at a homeless shelter. We give away clothes we don’t wear anymore. We donate money and time to a cause that fights injustice.

And we can do it with joy.

God pushes us. He challenges us. And especially during this lenten season He calls us to newness of life and He calls all of our brothers and sisters too. We must bring newness of life to those in desperate need of a kind word, a warm meal, or companionship. This (in addition to our individual fasts) is the fast that God desires.

What can you do during this lenten season in addition to a personal fast to bring those around you into relationship with Christ?

What acts of service can you participate in during lent?

Was there a relationship or person God put onto your heart while reading this blog? Look into ways you can grow in generosity and love in the upcoming weeks especially in these relationships and begin to pray for them daily.

How can you love each of your family members better this lenten season?

Who in your community needs the love of Christ the most? The homeless? The lonely? The forgotten? Seek them out and give generously to them.

About the Author

Sarah McMahon

My life radically changed after a retreat in high school and God keeps surprising me every day. I am a youth minister in Illinois and I’ve only met one kind of candy I don’t like. I hate flying but I love new adventures so if you invent teleportation let me know @sarah_mcmahon6.