Today's post was written by BH member, Whitney Woodard. Whitney is from Kentucky and is married to Alex.
Fasting is one of those spiritual disciplines that I compared to something like foreign missions-it was only for the "super spiritual" people. It took me four years from the time I became a believer to do my first 24 hour fast. I was on a summer project with Athletes in Action, and as a group, we had decided to fast together. While it was a great experience skipping my breakfast and lunch to spend time in the Word, I can't say that it was anything life changing. I almost felt a sense of pride and accomplishment because I was one of the few in our group who was able to complete the 24 hour fast.
My next fast would not be for another three years when I moved to Birmingham and joined The Church at Brook Hills. We all know about our quarterly prayer gatherings and how we are encouraged to fast together corporately. While it is a neat experience knowing that your brothers and sisters are all fasting throughout the day (and trying to avoid that temptation to dip into your snack drawer at work…maybe it’s just me), I still had never understood the true significance of fasting.
Perhaps for me, it almost seemed like I was sliding into the likes of legalism when I fasted. Many of us are probably familiar with Matthew 6:16 where Jesus makes it clear that He expects us to fast. He doesn't say if you fast, but when you fast. I noticed in myself that I was only doing it because I felt this sense of obligation to do it, and then of course, there was that sense of accomplishment. Funny, because Jesus is very clear that fasting is something to be done between the individual and God. It is not something to be celebrated outwardly or to become prideful about.
It was not until August 20th of this past year when I finally understood why the Lord calls us to fast. My mom had been battling cancer for several years, and back in August, lab results came back that showed signs that she was starting to lose her battle. Unfortunately, she had to wait a full week to see the doctor to interpret the results and to see what could be done.
She was going to visit the doctor August 20th, and on that day my sister and I had decided to fast so that we could be in prayer for her. Of course, we prayed for healing for her body, but most importantly, we prayed that she might place her faith in Christ as her Lord and Savior. The thought of hearing the worst from the doctors and knowing that our mom had not received salvation was almost too much to bear. I could barely sleep the night before knowing what the Bible says about those who die apart from Christ.
August 20th felt like the longest day not being able to be in Kentucky (where my mom lives) and be in that doctor’s appointment with her. However, I have never felt God’s presence more in my life than that day when I fasted and spent time in prayer throughout the day. The morning began on my knees and throughout the workday just lifting my eyes to God, asking for His will to be done and for my mom’s life to be saved, physically and spiritually.
Eventually, 3:00 rolled around, and I sat on a three way phone call with my sisters while my mom talked with the doctor. At that moment, the Lord gave me such an overwhelming sense of peace, and I just knew He was with our family at this time. Praise be to Him that the lab results were misleading, and it was going to take a simple adjustment to her chemotherapy. We also got news that day that her tumor was actually decreasing in size! While it doesn’t make sense to our family how this happened, I KNOW the Lord performed a miracle that day!
My mom died back in November, but I am happy to say that my mom confessed Christ Jesus as her Lord and Savior before she died! The Lord is sovereign, and He works in His own timing that we will never understand. Proverbs 3:5 tell us not to lean on our own understanding because in this life we will never understand why God works the way that He does.
So, all that to say, when trials come your way or you are faced with a challenging situation, turn to the Lord. I now understand why Jesus tells us to fast. There is no greater communion with God than to give up nourishment for our stomachs in exchange for nourishment for our souls. Of course our prayers may not be answered the way we want them to be answered, but I can guarantee God will use this experience and this time of fasting to grow and to teach you to trust Him through all of the details of your life.