Deserting or Desserting

Psalm 77, Proverbs 30:1–9, Matthew 4:1–11 (read online ⧉)

If your were present at the Ash Wednesday service or the past Sunday service, you may recall that in Lent we witness and experience a symbolic representation of Jesus’ trial in the desert, and the biblical concept of 40 days as a significant time of transformation. For Jesus, it was a condensed time of temptation. It is not to say that Jesus was never tempted outside of this trial, but to emphasize that it was a short time, and was severe.

Matthew notes that Jesus fasted for 40 days.

Fasting can take different forms. Certain traditions fast from meat, eggs, and/or dairy certain days or time periods. Other traditions (think Judaism) fast from leavened (yeast raised) bread. Fasting can be from sunrise to sundown; it can be a meal; it can be for days. The intent behind fasting is to bring us closer to God by using one of our basic needs (nourishment) to use as a focus on God.

40 days is a long time. Without question, this is a God-empowered moment. Most people do not have the will power, or the ability, to fast for such a long time[1]. Some may question what Jesus fasted from. Based on the scripture, food was the fasted element, for we read that Jesus was hungry, and this was the first temptation that Jesus was presented with.

You want some bread?

Agur (whose words are in Proverbs 30) speaks of a huge truth that is core to much of a God-balanced life. He says, “…feed me with food that I need, or I shall be full, and deny you…”. Agur probably could not have imagined those 40 days. Agur was likely familiar with hunger (perhaps even severe hunger, bordering starvation) and at least the example of those over-fed. Yet, Jesus took Agur’s words a step further, making it a point that God’s very words are food. They are food to bring us a life beyond satisfying the body.

A spiritual desert is often a time (or multiple times) in a person’s life when they feel furthest from God. That does not mean that God is any further (really), it is a matter of perception and perspective. People may experience a spiritual desert in times of great trial (starvation). They might experience it when everything is going great (over-fed). These times can be huge in one’s personal affections and relations with God. However, if we listen to the adversarial voice, we might succumb to the voice that says “I” can do it without God.

1) Re-read Psalm 77:6. How could these words guide you in light of your own times in a spiritual desert?

2) If you have never fasted, why not? If you have, did you find it helpful?

3) How is fasting or the “desert” related to “dying to self”?

[1] Any fasting beyond sunrise to sunset should be prayerfully and wisely considered. Anyone under 18 or over 65, pregnant or in another physical state needing regular physician care should consult with their physician. From a spiritual standpoint, it is wise to speak to someone who cares for your spiritual life. While fasting is personal, and shouldn’t be publicly declared, having wise spiritual counsel is good to make sure the intent is truly God-focused.