Lent, the season leading up to Easter, is a popular time to fast. We don’t call it that, but people make pledges to give up something for lent. It might be something small like chocolate or sugared drinks. It might be an action like not saying a certain phrase or doing some poor habit anymore.
The idea is to give up some sort of “bad” practice to become a better person or a better Christ-follower. The hope is that after our period of fasting we will have developed new habits and routines that are better for us physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
But fasting is so much more than “giving up” something in our lives. It’s really more about abandoning our heart’s desires to be filled with God’s. Isaiah talks about human-focused fasting for several verses and how empty it actually is. He then shows us God’s idea of fasting:
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Isaiah 58:6-7 (ESV)
Fasting from earthly things like a certain food, technology, or certain behaviors can be a good thing. But don’t let the focus be on your own heart and actions. Instead, use fasting as a means to draw near to God. Ask Him to fill you with His desires. Ask Him to fill your heart with compassion for others. Ask Him to use you for His purposes.