The Danger of Fasting

We are so excited to introduce you to guest blogger Katie Eller today. Katie is a 4th grade teacher and graduate school student in North Carolina. You can read more from Katie at her blog, Cardigan Way.

Soon, our six dogwoods will blossom. Right now, the branches fill up with plump little buds. Entering our third spring in this house means we know what’s coming. We wait eagerly for those white blooms.


It seems so appropriate to talk about fasting in the middle of Lent, the season of preparation. Just as I look for the blooms of the dogwood, Lent has us waiting with hope for the “Alleluias” of Easter, the redemption of the Resurrection. As the 31st nears, Believers around the world are fasting and reflecting on how humanity yearned and still yearns today.

We dwell on the days before that climb up Calvary, before the empty tomb, and we ready ourselves for it to break open again. 

My fasting started in January, long before Ash Wednesday.  It will take me into the summer this year.  And I have decided that fasting is heart-dangerous.  

This is why.

After reading Jen Hatmaker’s 7 {under-the-covers-with-flashlight style, in a matter of hours}, we jumped fully into our own mutiny against excess.  Well.  I jumped.  My husband approved my jumping from the sideline, but bless him, he doesn’t have the issue with clothes that I do.

I survived a food fast in January, coming out on the other side with the conviction that not thinking about my food is nothing short of luxury.

food fast - chicken & spinach

Then, in February, I engaged the clothes fast.  It was blissful and freeing indeed.  I was stunned by how inconvenient it wasn’t.

clothes fast

And now, we are ridding ourselves of stuff.  This weekend marks the midpoint of our possessions fast.  We are exing out all the extras (ironically during the month we celebrate birthdays and get stuff, I might add).  My husband has joined in on this one, since really, it’s his stuff, too.

posessions fast

So you might think that I’m learning to fast well…getting this thing “down.”

Well, maybe it was heading that way, until the interruption of one tiny remark, one little sentence reeling me in and making me wonder where I land in all of these fasts. It was a conversation with my husband, creating the fasting details back in February, when he said to me, “Katie, it’s not a game.”

Therein lies the danger.  I had allowed fasting to become a feat to conquer, a hill that I climb up, determined to stake my flag at its pinnacle.

When actually, a fast isn’t something to prove to myself or others…a danger {maybe even a greater one} when I’m living it through a blog, shamelessly taking the world through it with me and letting the “hard” become something I accomplish, something to which my legalistic-bent self says, “done.”  Something not at all happening in private.  And certainly not something with room for Christ, keeping myself at the head of the table, Pharisaical garb {red wedges} and all.

Fasting must be nothing like that.

Though I’m no biblical scholar, I can look at Christ’s example and tell you from scripture that fasting the way Jesus did it had nothing to do with what he gave up, as the Bible doesn’t say a word about that.  Also, we’ve yet to find any evidence of Jesus coming out of the wilderness to His disciples’ congratulatory pats on the back.  We don’t even read what God thought about it all.

No.  Jesus fasted to commune more intently with the Father.  To know God and to walk with Him.  To listen and converse, worship and pray.  Close fellowship with the Father {often away from the crowds} was a foundational theme in Christ’s life, and it’s certainly evident here, with the fast that inaugurated His ministry.

So how do I do this?  How do I take the removal of stuff, the conviction of excess, even, and point it directly back to Christ?  How do I give Him the energy of this fast {or the last one or the next one}, relinquishing it from its gamelike grip and changing it to communion with Him?  How do I allow it to prepare me, to make me more like His Son and less like the Katie who loves excess?

Well.  I’ll tell you.  I don’t know.  But it starts with recognizing the danger of it.  It starts with refusing to allow it to become something I look at and say, “done.”

Whether you are fasting through Jen’s book like me, observing a Lenten fast, or even spending a season trying to grow in some area, let us not allow it to become a trite accomplishment of willpower.

Like Christ, let’s make it about communion with the Father.  Dwell on Him instead.  Let’s spend our fasts acknowledging Jesus, remembering how He redeemed the world by a walk up Calvary, the ultimate hill with the ultimate pinnacle at the Empty Tomb.




  1. Susie Schroeder says

    I too struggle with the “fast”. I always start thinking about the weight loss more than the spiritual aspect. Very frustrating and embarrassing.

  2. Jennifer Ivey says

    This is so true! I recently participated in a group fast for a woman in our Bible study who is very ill. It was very difficult for me to differentiate between the benefits I might receive and the real reason I was doing the fast. I have only fasted once before in my walk and it was a great experience. This was as well, although with my recent weight-loss experience I struggled to stay focused on the task at hand. Thank you for your article! It is nice to know we are not alone.

  3. Alta Lynn Blake says

    SPEAKING LOUDLY to me today…thank you for sharing. It is what I do with my fasts at times…I start out with the making it about God and growing in intimacy with Him and wanting the change…but, it seems I get attitude with it and either end with conqueror or winning over something…food fast quickly become a diet and…well:-(
    Thanks for pulling me back to center…Him

  4. Paula Hutchings says

    I often found myself in the “game” mode with fast of any kind. I like a good challange. “Seeing” if I could do it. Completely getting my eyes off of the real goal or intent of the fast. That is why I shorted my food fast to a moring or until supper or something that is not likely to move me into the challange mode but instead remind me through that time what I am praying for or focusing on. I do food fast at different times, when needed but this year is the first year I did a fast for Lent. It just so happened (I will say “it just so happened” know full well God was all over this one) that our Bible study group started the study of BM’s Daniel. The day before Ash Wednesday our group met and listened as Beth challanged us to a abstince of rich meat or whatever other thing that we needed, to think about how Bablyon was affecting us instead of us affeting it. The next night at church (I go to a Baptist church) our pastors had participated in taking the mark of the ashes on their forehead and learned the significance of it. They offered to preform this for any of us who wanted to paraticipate. (I know I’m not discribing this correctly so please don’t be offend by my ignorance.) God had already been speaking to me the night before about the Bablyonian tv my husband and I had been watching more and more of. (don’t worry it was only network tv but still!). So that night I took away tv watching and instead spent more time in Bible study and prayer. I did not watch any TV for one month. Now it is only the news and one or two shows I like, after that it gets turned off. You would not beleive the differance it has made. So your fast of “stuff” is very appropriate for my Bablyonian frame of mind (which become your focus during the Daniel Study). I think you can go through your house and identify what you have that is causing you to spend time where you shouldn’t or cause you stress to have or have to rent extra storage to put it in and rid yourself of that baggage in honor of making more space for the simplicity that God allows you live in that gives you all the riches of heaven. Thanks for this Blog. I think my next fast may be a stuff fast. I still have seveal more weeks of Daniel left. Who knows what will come after that!

  5. Adriel S. says

    I feel that fasts are meant to focus ourselves on the person of Jesus Christ by spending time in God’s Word and in prayer. It isn’t something that must be drawn out over a long period of time, but rather something that is meant to draw us closer, a time for us to learn. And as you said, it’s not something to say, “I accomplished this (and look how many pounds I’ve lost!)”

  6. says

    It is far too easy for me to make my spiritual life into a to-do list that I can successfully check off and feel accomplished for the day. We just finished a spiritual disciplines series with the youth at our church and I hadn’t realized how much I view those disciplines as something to conquer for my own benefit. What a great reminder that these things are to draw us near to the God who loves us.

  7. Janice says

    Katie-this is a great post. Thank you for sharing and being so open and honest.
    Isaiah 58 has a lot to say about fasting that pleases God.


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