I still remember the very first time I food fasted for a full day. I was in my 3rd year of university and attending a prayer group led by a cute boy (now my husband). He had shared his experiences with fasting and encouraged us to try it as a way of drawing closer to God. I had no idea that part of his fasting at the time was that I would date and marry him (!), but I was inspired by his passion for God and decided to try a full day fast.
I remember waking up and wondering if I’d be able to make it. Then began the count down for each hour of the day. I would see people eating and wonder how they could be putting so much in their mouth. I also vainly wondered how much weight I would lose not eating for a day. The closer to lunch I got the more weak and foggy I felt. Then the headache came and the complete loss of concentration. When I got home, I crashed for an hour before heading out to the youth group I was volunteering with. I know I wasn’t very social that night but after I made it home and crawled into bed, I knew I’d survived and that it was possible to go for a day without food. Breakfast the next morning never tasted better.
It was a while before I fasted again and I can’t remember when it became a regular discipline. In my young adult years, I struggled with body image issues, so I wanted to make sure I fasted from the right things in the right ways. So, I did fasts like not exercising, or cutting out sugar or snacks; things that were my go-to’s for comfort but that wouldn’t make me obsess about the weight I was losing. Slowly, God is healing me from food issues and I can do full food fasts in a way that I feel focuses on the true reasons for fasting, not just about the physical gains I will make.
Then I had kids and fasting meant a whole new challenge:
You still have to make them food. Yikes, it’s hard not to nibble.
They still require extra physical energy that you don’t have excess of.
You can’t just crash and take a nap when you feel like it.
You can’t necessarily spend extra time during the day to pray.
And I don’t know about you, but going without food makes me grouchy!
Patience goes out the window and I feel like my kids suffer.
When my kids were really little I also didn’t full food fast because of the negative energy I caused in my home when I went without food. This is not to say it can’t be done, but I just didn’t attempt it.
Gradually as my kids got older and less physically exhausting, I began to take baby steps towards full fasts. I would fast until supper (usually only making it until 3pm before I needed a piece of toast). Then I would do only fruits and vegetables for the day and finally I worked myself up to a full liquid only day. Some of you may find going without food a breeze, but for me it is an intense mental, emotional and physical challenge. 3 years ago, I did my first full 3-day fast. It was hard, but once I was done I realized it was possible, albeit hard, and I could survive it.
The thing that kept me pressing on and working to make fasting a regular part of my life was the spiritual blessings I received every time I did it. God would meet with me in such incredible ways and give me breakthroughs in prayers I was praying:
Getting into the vacation spot we wanted (and have now gone to for 7 years)
Getting pregnant with another baby
Freedom from strongholds
Breakthroughs in relationships
Changes in parenting and kids
Deeper connection to God’s love
During this most recent fast, Kris and I were both praying for our one son who struggles with anxiety. All three days of the fast, he told us that he woke up thinking it was the weekend because he felt no stress! Incredible. There is such a power in fasting.
I asked some other Selah leaders what they do to get through fasting as moms and here’s some of the things they said they do:
- Don’t compare! God doesn’t compare you to other moms, so pray and decide on what you can do and then do that without guilt.
- Talk your fast through with your spouse. Some couples find it easier to fast together because there is support in it and you don’t have to make big meals for your husband. Some couples find it easier to do on different weeks so that the opposite spouse can make the suppers while the other takes time to go to the prayer room. Regardless of whether you do it together or not, make a plan to help each other out during your tough times.
- Make as much food as you can ahead of time (muffins, loaves, meat, cut veggies, etc.) and keep meals for your kids simple (frozen foods, sandwiches, cereal and toast, leftovers, soup, hotdogs and veggies etc). Your kids won’t mind!
- Plan your days. Make a schedule so that you have things to look forward to each day but not too much that you over do it. Go to the library, plan a playdate (generally I can be nicer to my kids if I’m in front of other moms), get some simple new activities from the dollar store to entertain your kids, etc.
- Try to find childcare for an hour or two so you can have an extra prayer time free of distractions.
- Don’t be afraid to use a little extra TV time for the kids.
- Do a media fast along with your food fast so that you have extra time to pray.
- Plan in a nap and get to bed early.
- Drink lots of water, juice (fruit and veggie) and soup broth.
- Explain what you are doing to your kids. Tell them you are fasting and are going to try really hard to be a good mom, but that you might make mistakes because you’re hungry. Then apologize when you do. Tell them that you are giving up something because you love God and want to know Him more. That you are choosing to do this as an act of love, not because God wants to see you suffer before He answers your prayers.
- Involve your kids in your fast with extra family prayer times and Bible readings.
- Don’t forget to do spiritual warfare because the enemy will be trying his best to make you doubt what you are doing.
What’s important to remember is that while fasting can become easier, it will still always be hard. That’s the point. Our discomfort is supposed to remind us that we should be turning to God for strength. Some fasts will be harder than others and that’s totally normally too. If you find it’s just too much, it’s totally OK to take a break! God’s love and answers to prayer don’t depend on you doing a ‘perfect’ fast. God knows that it’s hard for you. Pray and tell Him your worries and fears about it. Ask Him to help you through it and then trust that He’s heard you.
Daniel 10:11-12 (NLT)
11 And the man said to me, “Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Stand up, for I have been sent to you.” When he said this to me, I stood up, still trembling. 12 Then he said, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer.