Sunday, February 10, 2013

(Lenten) Fasting

It's nearly Ash Wednesday!  That's probably the topic of most, if not all, church services today, and at our church, it was no different.  We worship in the Methodist tradition, and come Lent, we focus on either a.) giving up something for the duration of Lent and/or b.) adopting a new discipline.
This has been hit or miss for me in the past, like reading the Bible in a year.  There are years when Lent just sails by and I feel the presence of God immensely.  But there are others, and this has definitely been true of the last 2 or 3, when my sacrifice has been a real struggle.  I'd give most of the credit to that struggle being trying to keep up in my own power.

But I have fasted before "successfully."  (Successfully meaning I got through it AND relied on God's power to do so.) I want to do it again this year, but in my (very) pregnant state and coming post-partum, giving up a meal or food is not a healthy option.  Also, giving up alcohol, in a word, would just be cheating.

This year, I want it to be a real fast - a challenge.  That might sound like crazy-talk and given my circumstances, I'm sure it would be acceptable to "pass" until next year.  But as I've written a lot lately - spiritual inventory is required in any season (i.e., whether I am pregnant or not.)  Plus, the Lord has shown Himself more than faithful, so the least I can do is use this time to draw closer to Him.
As I sat in worship thinking, I took a moment to actually ask God what He thought.  (That's been a long-standing issue, choosing what I want to do, rather than what the Lord would ask.)

Wouldn't you know, I got an answer!

Having thyroid issues and a busy life make me constantly think more sleep would cure me.  There are a lot of days I'm tired now and no doubt, with a newborn, it's only going to get worse.  But the Spirit has been stirring me for awhile to turn my eyes to Christ when I don't have the energy, not artificial stimulants or jabbering about it to a friend.  Turning to the Lord for rest and strength is not something I've practiced with any frequency or fervor - so this maybe the chance the Lord wants me to take.

My Lenten Fast is to not complain about being tired.

One of the things I learned during the excellent sermon this morning on Matthew 4:1-1 is that He used three different Scriptures to fend off Satan's advance.  Made me think when you take on something like this, just one verse - one rebuke - one turning away isn't going to be enough.  I mean, look at Joseph, he had to fight off Potiphar's wife a bunch!  In my brief fast, it was Scripture I leaned on to make it through and discovered the real power in using the spiritual to combat the physical.  When you tap into God's power, instead of your own will, it makes all the difference.

So, the first verse I'm committing to memory is Matthew 4:4, with a slight tweak.  In it, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3, saying:

It is written, ‘Man is not to live on bread only. Man is to live by every word that God speaks.’

My version is goes like this: Amy is not to rely on sleep alone for energy.  Amy is to live by every word that God speaks.

I hope that will give me relief when sleep is not possible.  I will take my chances to sleep when they come up, but the issue is not to complain about the lack of it.  I don't need to whine about being pregnant, worn out, weary, irritable, what a bad night we had, etc to anyone but the Lord.  (That's the acceptable/best place to whine because when we take our concerns and cares to Him, He will double-up on the blessings of energy and show us compassion.  And that's what we really want when we complain, isn't it?)

The point of my fast is thus: I'm going to live by the word that God speaks - and focus on the rest He will give me when I take on His burden (which is very light.)  I don't need to fuss about it.

My true test will be to think about what God's thinks, not focusing on my own weakness. (Philippians 4:8)

I have accountability partners, including my sweet husband (who is thinking about taking up as his own Lenten sacrifice of making sure he gives me every opportunity to rest to make this fast easier on me).  I am asking for prayer and would like to do the same for you (fasting/sacrifice not required) - please leave a comment (here, in a email, on FB).  Any spiritual inventory is hard and 40 days is a long time to do something consistently.  But I want to be an encourager.  As far as I can tell, encouragement and complaining don't mix!  Besides, I know the Lord is close to those who draw close to Him.

It's not going to be easy - but it is possible.  Because anything is possible with Jesus (Matthew 19:26, Luke 1:37.)

If you are giving up something for Lent, here are 10 verses to keep handy, to lean on when the going gets rough (and no doubt it will!).  It's all about growth in Christ here on this blog, so coming together to share our desires will definitely help keep me focused on the bigger picture, especially on days when I really want to gripe and moan about this exhausted life. 

I can do everything through him who gives me strength . - Philippians 4:13 

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. - Isaiah 40:29 

My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. - Psalm 119:28 

The Lord answered Moses " Is the Lord's arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you." - Numbers 11:23  

It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. - Psalm 18:32-34 

The Lord is my light and my salvation- whom shall i fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life- of whom shall I be afraid? - Psalm 27:1

So do not fear for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand  - Isaiah 41:10 

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. - 1 Corinthians 10:13

...but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on the wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. - Isaiah 40:31

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. - Mark 12:30 

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