For Wesley, the purpose of fasting was not to lose weight or to be more physically healthy. Wesley believed fasting was crucial for the spiritual health of Jesus’ disciples.
The rise of the internet has created a perfect storm for growing numbers of men to become addicted. It is available. It is anonymous. I suspect no other generation of men – or their pastors – had such a collision of forces that are the same time both irresistible and destructive.
Fasting is more than denying ourselves food. It is choosing to act out, by temporarily denying ourselves food, that we do not live by bread alone. We are completely dependent upon God, and we deliberately choose voluntary weakness. We become identifiably humble in the face of the problems with which we are dealing. We admit to each other, and primarily to God: only you can get us through this “mess.”
Like a tide that ebbs and flows upon a shore, the disciplines are like waves, ever-present with the rising and falling of the water. Discipleship is a life-long endeavor, regularly punctuated by the fasts and feasts we keep, consistently renewing and transforming us so we might be worthy vessels to offer the life giving water of Christ to a parched and weary world.
A celebration of Easter without a prior descent into the grave is dishonest and naïve, just as observing Lent without the uncompromising proclamation of the Resurrection is hopeless.
I often talk about “speaking faith,” which for me means (among other things) giving life to our ideas and beliefs by speaking them aloud. Moving them from the realm of our personal, interior selves to an external realm where they can become infectious and dynamic. That’s the kind of thing I want to happen to my prayers, to my fasting, to whatever self-denial I decide to undertake.