“Fasting from any nourishment, activity, involvement, or pursuit – for any season- sets the stage for God to appear. Fasting is not a tool to pry wisdom out of God’s hands or to force needed insight about a decision. Fasting is not a tool for gaining discipline or developing piety (whatever that might be). Instead, fasting is the bulimic act of ridding ourselves of our fullness to attune our senses to the mysteries that swirl in and around us.” -Dan B. Allendar
This month, the leaders of our church encouraged us to go on a fast with them.
Starting this past Monday we were to begin fasting from Meats and Sweets, (which I have failed at horribly), and to begin a season of truly ridding ourselves of the distraction of food, social media, and the other trappings of life that we use to feed our flesh…to keep control.
Control is something we like to maintain.
Wouldn’t you agree?
I like to know that everything is going to be A-ok…
…that the roof isn’t going to cave in on me
…that the ground isn’t going to fall out from underneath me.
I enjoy my comfort.
I enjoy control.
It makes me feel, well… in control.
But control is an illusion. Though we may feel like we have a sense of control over things… reality tells us different.
In case you haven’t noticed…our society is in chaos.
More recently, terrorism has reared its ugly head time and again here in America or around the world.
One moment you’re shopping in the mall or changing planes at an airport, the next moment, you’re dodging bullets and hiding in the clothing store for some cover hoping you’ll survive the trip to the mall or through the airport.
Family life has its moments too…
One moment you’re sitting peacefully in your living room watching television, the next moment your kid is on the floor screaming because their sibling slung them around and busted their leg on the dining room table.
Circumstances that are our of your control are constantly threatening to throw you off course. Life is full of chaotic moments, moments where you cannot control the reality of things that are going on around you. Life can also come at you through seasons of uncertainty and difficulty. Long drawn out periods of sustained suffering and discomfort.
So what do you do in these moments and seasons?
How We Respond
Well, I believe there are two ways we can respond: Unhealthy and Healthy
Let’s talk about the unhealthy ways first.
- Panic. When things go out of control, our first response is often to panic. We freak. Because in that moment, we have no way out, we have no recourse, we just feel that emotion of the moment. Panic can be healthy if it leads to healthy action. But panic in and of itself is simply fear brought about by losing control of a situation.
- Run away. In the case of life threatening circumstances, it is obviously better for you to not be there than right in the middle of it… but running away has its consequences too. Running away can mean that someone else’s life is put in danger. Running away can be a very selfish and unloving act.
- Stupid activity. Often when we encounter a season of uncertainty and instability, we make foolish decisions. We turn to something that makes us feel like we are in control when, in reality, we end up digging ourselves into a deeper hole. Maybe it’s turning to alcohol, maybe it’s turning to promiscuous sex, maybe it’s spending money, maybe it’s losing our wits. Whatever we choose to do in these moments and seasons, acting impulsively by hurting ourselves is just plain stupid.
As you can see, there are ways that we respond that are definitely self-destructive and even destructive to others when we try to take control of our lives as they spin out of control. But I want to offer a few ways to let go of control today that may help you in your current situation.
- Pause. The first way I want to encourage you to react is in wisdom. Often we react in panic and our minds are not clear or aware enough of what is going on the make a wise decision. We become reactive instead of proactive, which essentially means we just do something immediately without taking a moment to assess what’s going on and see if there is anything we can do in the moment to stop the bleeding. Hitting the Pause button is not always easy.. and sometimes not always possible… but if we can take a moment in our pain or our struggle to stop, to get a bird’s eye perspective, and to remain as objective as we can… then we may find ourselves realizing that we are and always have been helpless to control the situation, but maybe we can find ways to navigate through the pain. Letting go of control means being helpful even when you realize you are helpless. Letting go of control means being helpful even when you realize you are helpless. Click To Tweet
- Stay and Fight. Another thing I want to encourage is positive engagement. We cannot always control the actions of others or even the action of God in our circumstances. But we do have a choice as to whether we can stick it out, lift our heads, and fight for what is good in the midst of a bad situation. There are always people who will benefit from our willingness to stay when everyone else decides to run away. Usually those who benefit are those who have the most to lose if we leave. Letting go of control doesn’t mean running away.
- Simply be and then simply do. Sometimes we come to the place where we are faced with the reality that we have absolutely no control over the circumstances we are in, the people we have around us, and even the ability to overcome. In those times we must find ways to let go of what we are holding on to for support. Fasting is a great way to begin. For the disciple of Christ, fasting is a way in which we can rid ourselves of things that we believe are giving us life that may in fact be holding us back from the life that we need. Setting ourselves on the shelf, taking time to be away and not dwell on the circumstances we are in, letting God know how we feel through prayer, giving God time and space to work on those we cannot control, giving God time and space to work on our own hearts which we often cannot control. These are all ways in which we can simply rest in the goodness of God rather than try to shake our fist at him and live our own lives for ourselves. Letting go may mean setting aside a way of going about life that we have always thought was THE way to go about life. The Jesus way is an alternative, though it is often not sought out.Letting go may mean setting aside a way of going about life that we have always thought was THE way to go about life. Click To Tweet
I remember as a teenager going on ski trips with my youth group. Most of us had poles in our hands and skis on our feet…. but then there were those crazy people who went skiing without poles. I always wondered what they were thinking until one day I was told that poles are often a hindrance rather than a help in skiing. Poles were there to maintain a feeling of control, but the control lies not in the poles but in the skiers ability and the skis themselves.
There is a passage in the book of Hebrews that states that we are in a great coliseum of faith. We are standing in a great arena with dust on our bodies, the challenge is before us, and all those who have gone before us in this life are cheering us on in the stands. The writer of Hebrews challenges us to “lay aside” or “throw off every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder (the author) and perfecter (or finisher) of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
To let go of control is to throw off the sense of control that we have clung to for so long and give control back to the one who holds the stars in their places, sets the foundations of the earth, gives rain in the dry season, and life to the stony heart. Lean in to His heart, not away from it. Choose to do away with those things that serve as a distraction and run your race with fire and passion in your heart.
I guarantee that you will cross the finish line to a standing ovation.