Wednesday, September 2, 2015

10 Things I Learned While On the Daniel Fast

As of today, we ended the Daniel Fast.

The Daniel Fast is a 21-day fast that excludes foods declared "unclean" by God in the Law of Moses. Basically, it means that you abstain from eating all forms of meats, sugar, dairy, and bread and only consume vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. It's what you would call a "partial fast" because only some foods and not all foods are restricted.

It sounds easy enough. When I heard of the Daniel Fast, I even thought it sounded trendy, like one of those paleo diets or like three weeks of clean eating that gives you shinier hair and more energy.

But it's actually a whole lot more than that. 

I've learned over the past 21 days. Not just about my body, but more about my soul and mind, which is what the Daniel Fast is meant to do. So, here are 10 things that I learned while on the Daniel Fast.

1. The Daniel Fast is not a "diet." It is a CHOICE.

Or at least, it shouldn't be. (Refer to item number two). Fasting means that you are withholding yourself from something that you usually have. By doing this, not only are you exercising your skills of self-discipline, but it makes you more conscious and aware of your body and even spirit. The Daniel Fast is a choice. You can either choose to focus on what you aren't eating, how hungry you are, what you're being deprived of--or, you can focus on the spiritual and seek to experience the Lord in a deeper way and depend on him.

2. If you only take part in the physical side of the fast (the actual fasting of certain foods) and ignore the spiritual side (praying, seeking God for strength, reading scripture, meditating), you will not get much out of this experience and it actually will become just a diet that isn't very fun.

I actually enjoy the occasional diet; I've tried clean eating, going raw for a few days, juicing, and paleo cleanses. But as the fast went on, I really started to resent that we were going through it. It began to feel obligatory, as opposed to before I started I felt excited and expectant as to what God would do in my life through it. Looking back, I know that this is because I stopped looking at the fast as a spiritual offering to God and got too logical about it. It became about meal plans and grocery shopping (so much grocery shopping) and whether or not I was "doing it right." That's not what God cared about. That will never be what he cares about. It's very simple; He just wanted me. He just wants us. He didn't care if I made all of the recipes in the Daniel Fast cookbook. He just cared whether I spend time with Him, asked him for strength, humbled myself, prayed, or got into the Word. Without the spiritual growth aspect of fasting, honestly, it's not fun nor rewarding. It's nothing special. It's just a diet.

3. Fasting is entering into a period of extended prayer and so that you can draw nearer to God. 

This is something that I knew from doing other fasts, but I had never done a fast before that lasted this long. Having this extended period of time to fast, I learned in a deeper way why they say a fast draws you near to God. Not having food, though I don't know how to explain completely how, allows one to become more focused and single-minded. Maybe it's because you're not distracted by your cravings or fleshly desires as much, but what I know is that it makes things, in a way, more simplified and easy to reach out to God and stay near to him.

4. Fasting humbles us before God, and allows us to receive favor on our lives. 

This fast allowed me to reflect on myself and what I idolize and put before God. It's important to me to have it all together and life fully 100% of the time. But during this fast, there were nights when I just DID NOT want to go to the store AGAIN and make some kind of vegetable soup or potato dish or bean cake AGAIN. I didn't want to chop more vegetables or spend an hour making something. I would complain about how much easier it is to just grab some frozen goods out of the freezer on busy nights when I can't cook. There were nights where I didn't even make dinner and just let my husband eat out the jar of salsa (sorry, honey). All of this led me to a place where I NEEDED God. Hungry, tired, and especially tired of trying to make new meals of substance out of the same vegetables, I found myself humbled by God. He spoke to my heart on being a good wife, daughter, encourager and even student by putting forward my best even when my resources are limited and my emotions are low. When I didn't have strength, he gave it to me. I learned SO MUCH about my weaknesses, and how they are what gives me my strength, because without them, I wouldn't need God. (BUT I DO.) Fasting says, "I'm getting out of the way so that God can work. I'm going to put my humanness second and Him first." This, I believe, pleases God and gives him room to allow the Spirit to move in us and thus, bless us!

5. We give our bodies more control over our lives than we think.

I have never craved a donut so badly as I did on the fast. I had no idea my body could irk me with thoughts of glaze falling over fried dough on a daily basis for weeks. We cater to our bodies, which isn't always a bad thing, but couldn't it be if our bodies are put on a higher pedestal than our relationship with Christ?
Not to be even better fasters, but just because we didn't actually NEED anything. We were able to truly hear our bodies, know that we weren't actually hungry, and be content.

6. Time changes things; staying dedicated and focused in a single mindset can make amazing things happen. 

This fast wouldn't be bad for a week. 21 days... That's different. That's almost a month. It's also the amount of days that many say it takes to form a habit. There were many times when I thought to myself, "C'mon, Daniel. Twenty-one days? You couldn't have underachieved and done like, ten days or something?" But there is something about sticking at something challenging like this for a longer period of time that really changes things. And then, add prayer and fasting to that kind of dedication, and I believe that's when miracles could happen. It's like creating a big space of fertile ground in your life for God to work. It's awesome!

7. There are so many things you can make with beans.

Too many things, actually. Bean patties, bean cakes, bean chili, bean soup, bean everything. Beans are definitely on the list of things that we do not want to eat for the next like, six-to-twelve months.

8. Fasting to gain God's favor is an act of holiness and humility; not a challenge that wins us a prize. 

In these last few days of the fast, I've been praying even more about God's favor on my life and what he wants me to gain from what we just went through. It should be enough that I feel closer to God than I have in a long time, but I have found myself almost feeling like this fast was a quarter put into God's vending machine of blessings, and that my blessing-prize should be tumbling out into my hands any day now. I've decided I don't like this way of thinking about it. Instead, I'm happy with the growth God has given me. Am I still praying that he leads me to new insight, answers, and blessings? Of course. And I will continue to. But I've learned that God is my Father, not my vending machine or nutritional coach who gives me gold star at the end of this because I abstained from pizza.

9. Fasting and prayer truly does CHANGE things.

Referring a bit to what I wrote above, I think our first impression of fasting is like, "okay. Let me get this straight... I don't eat and then magically good stuff starts happening?" It sounds almost like an experiment, or a fashion website that has clothes so cheap that you know it has to be a gimmick. But it's not. And the only way my human brain knows how to semi-explain it at this point is that it's supernatural. It's something that we do in the physical life that impacts our spiritual life and changes our emotional life as well, and then can even come back around to change our physical life/situations for the better. My head has been clearer, I've been able to focus better on what God is calling me to do, I have been more confident and aware of things, I feel like my relationships have deepened and my fear of the future has lessened. I naturally have been drawn to the Word more and have daily received insight from God about my life and ministry. And I truly do because that this fast jumpstarted all of this.

10. The Lord allowed pizza to be invented so that one could properly celebrate the conclusion of a fast.

I'm not going to lie; I'm excited to conclude this fast. But it's not just because now I can eat donuts (but you best believe I AM GOING TO). It's more because I feel like God and I have a new memory together now. It's something that we did together, something that brought us closer together, and we have even more to look forward to! If you look in the scriptures, it wasn't until a few days until after his fast that Daniel's prayers were answered. This could just be the beginning.

If you have never participated in a fast, I highly suggest it, especially if you are wanting to reshape your life with Christ or grow spiritually! To learn more about the Daniel Fast, click here. 


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