I once watched my grandpa dive, head first and fully clothed, into a dirty pond in an attempt to catch a catfish with his bare hands. He did that. And he actually grabbed it and hoisted it before it flopped free and got away. He was 65 at the time, which, to me, seems a little older than the average dirty pond diver. But he was, as you might guess, a very passionate fisherman. He was also a disappointed fisherman. After years filled with hours of outdoor sports, he admitted regret a few years back when we were talking about serving Jesus. He said, “I reckon I spent too much time hunting and fishing to amount to anything.”
He told me to give my time to the pursuit of Jesus and the mission of the church. Grandpa realized when he couldn’t do it anymore, that fishing never filled him. It never satisfied. And he wished he had pursued Christ more with the type of passion that put him head first in a catfish pond.
For you and your group, it probably isn’t hunting or fishing that fights for your focus. It might be career goals or your Netflix queue or your family drama. But every single one of us knows that we rhythmically, even passionately, fill our lives and fix our eyes on pursuits that fail us. We are constantly being drawn in and then disappointed by doomed pleasures.
It is because of this tendency to fill our lives with incomplete satisfiers that we should consider fasting with our groups. There is more to hunger for—and it is powerful when we seek it together in our groups.
We fast to remember our Hope.
Fasting is one of the Bible’s prescriptions for a heart that tends to seek satisfaction where it cannot be found. Jesus said in Matthew 9, “Can the wedding guests be sad while the groom is with them? The time will come when the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
Jesus was letting us in on the secret that He is the true source of satisfaction. He said His disciples didn’t need to mourn, because they had Him. They didn’t need alternative joys, because they were going to have dinner with Him that night.
But He knew one day He would not be with them in the same way, and then they would miss Him. Then they would mourn. Disciples, like us, would be hungry in such a way that nothing but Jesus could satisfy.
And so we fast. We fast because we long for Him. We fast because so many lesser desires steal our attention from Jesus and they leave us lacking and they leave us longing. When we deny our wants, we can remember our Hope.
We fast to remember our weakness.
I have three daughters under the age of seven who are not very strong. We play a princess cupcake game that requires piecing together plastic parts to make things like the Princess Jasmine Spiced Fig Cake. I have one daughter (I won’t name names) who is not strong enough to squish the plastic “frosting” onto the plastic “cake.”
I know she can’t do it.
I offer her help.
At some point she realizes that she can’t do it on her own and she turns back to me and says, “Daddy, can you help me?”
Part of fasting is remembering that we can’t do it on our own. Part of fasting is feeling our frailty. It is remembering the reality that if we kept not eating, we would literally die. We are deeply needy, so part of fasting is saying, “Daddy can you help me?” God wants to help us, so He wants us to feel our weakness.
We fast to remember with our community.
The benefits of fasting are beautiful, but the act itself is hard. I once heard a pastor joke that he’d finished a two-week fast in two and a half hours. We’ve all had fasts die at dinner time. When that happens, we don’t just feel defeated—we miss out on the grace that God gives through the discipline of fasting.
That is where our groups can help. Fasting with your spiritual family provides support when you want to quit. Instead of fighting snacking alone, you feel your neediness with a friend. It is easier to carry on with your group. It is powerful to process your hope with your group. It is sweet to wrestle through weakness with brothers and sisters who are feeling it, too.
If you have never fasted with a group of like-minded disciples, you won’t believe the impact you’ll feel, the memories you’ll make, and the joy you’ll find that will remind you of forever.
We need to fast because we need to remember and hurt and hope. Try it together.