–Originally published on FWB21 January 9, 2013–
When women talk about their roles and activities as mothers, rarely is fasting even mentioned, much less considered at any length. I am learning, though, that fasting has powerful implications in family life, and that we mothers do well when we put it into practice for our families.
Fasting is altogether rather new to me as a regular spiritual discipline. Only within the past few months have I practiced it with any regularity. But I have seen powerful effects on my walk with Christ and on my family.
First, fasting causes me to rely on God in a whole new way. When hunger (or, more frequently, a craving) strikes, I am reminded to seek the face of God once again. Walking in the Spirit becomes a moment-by-moment reality as I turn to Him to keep me from being irritable, from complaining, or from giving in to weakness. Others have affirmed that what I have seen in my own life is true in theirs as well: when we fast, we are more in tune with the Spirit, more inclined to hear His voice, than on average days.
Second, fasting allows me more time to pray for my family. While at times I undertake a longer fast, mine typically cover only one meal: breakfast. Mornings are usually a hustle as we get ready for school. When I remove my need for nourishment in the morning, I am less stressed, less hurried, and more focused on my children. I have extra time to re-commit them to God, to pray over their hearts and their day, and to ask God to guide me as a mother, whether that day’s particular need is for gentleness in the face of frustrations, or wisdom to deal with the challenges of training. (This is also a good opportunity to pray for my husband and his day and ask God to help me be a suitable helper and companion to him as my #1 human relationship. But that’s probably best left for another post…)
Now, don’t think I’m one of those people who just doesn’t like breakfast. I’ve always been one of those people who have to eat as soon as their feet hit the floor in the morning. And there are still mornings when I do eat–I’m not a legalist. I just see a profound difference in our family’s day when I am intentionally fasting.
Third, intentionally fasting tempers my fleshly reaction when I am involuntarily left hungry, thirsty, waiting, or worse. Mothers are typically the last to eat, generally take what’s left over, and rarely get to eat a meal uninterrupted. When I am accustomed to placing myself in a state of want, I am less likely to complain or react strongly when circumstances like these are beyond my control.
As we discussed in our Bible study recently, we as mothers act as the thermostats of our homes, with the ability to warm cold hearts or to cool hot tempers. But that is only true if our own internal temperatures are stable. Fasting is one way the Spirit creates that stability in me. When I am under control, the family is more under control.
Fourth, fasting has a direct impact on spiritual warfare. If we are followers of Christ, we are automatically engaged in spiritual warfare. Jesus showed us a direct correlation between fasting and spiritual power. He fasted and prayed before his temptation in the wilderness. He explained when casting out demons that “this kind does not come out but by prayer and fasting.” If I hope to be an effective watcher in our family (Pr. 31:27), specific, focused prayer (at times accompanied by fasting) should be a regular part of my role as a wife and mother. There is no more powerful thing I can do for my family than to pray the presence and work of the Holy Spirit into their lives. He can keep them from the evil one.
As the keeper of the home, we wives and mothers have a very unique position to see and respond to the needs of our husbands and our children. When our walk with Christ is close and constant, the spiritual, physical, and emotional blessings flow out to the rest of the family. Joy, peace, and love reign in the home–and grace, mercy, and forgiveness abound when the flesh gets in the way.
If you’ve never fasted as a wife or mother, please try it–even for one meal. I am certain you will find it to be of great benefit, both to yourself and your family.