This blog was originally written for Ethos Church during a church-wide period of fasting and prayer.
Fasting and Eating Disorders
As our church begins a month of prayer and fasting, it is important to remember that while food fasting is one of the options, it is not the best approach for everyone, especially if an eating disorder or disordered eating has been part of your story. If this is you, know that you are seen, you are loved, and Ethos has resources to support you in this journey (linked at the bottom). This is not intended for medical advice, please continue under the care of your therapist or doctor.
Food is a complex relationship for many people; what the Lord intended for good, the enemy wants to distort, bend, and destroy. After the past year of chaos in every form imaginable, you may find yourself seeking to regain life-control through controlling your eating habits and the image you present to others. You may be compensating for feelings of insecurity and self-deprecation by putting on the appearance of having “it” all together. Or you have just found yourself in the web of an eating disorder and negative self-image and can’t quite figure out how you ended up there in the first place. Peace be still, you. are. loved.
The lies of the enemy are often rooted in a true need that all of us desire: to be secure and fully loved for who we are. We were made to be in an authentic relationship with Jesus, living in a divinely organized world. Our world leaves much to be desired and someday God will bring forth a new heaven and a new earth. Until then, this season of fasting can help us refocus our attention on the One who can fulfill all those needs that feel unmet.
In a season of communal fasting, the enemy may try to heap shame and guilt onto a believer who desires to participate but does not know if a food fast is the right fit. On the other hand, the enemy may also try to hide in the shadow of a season of fasting to bring back old behaviors and chains under the guise of religious practice. Neither of these options are lifegiving, and neither of these things are from the Lord.
The primary focus of fasting is about removing something significant from our lives so we can make space to focus our attention and energy on God and his Word. This is not a bargain, “God if I remove ____, will you do____?” nor is this a command like, "Thou Shalt Fast." Fasting does not earn you more salvation points or put you in a spiritually elite class. These are lies.
Fasting is a spiritual discipline along with disciplines like prayer, scripture reading, confession, and celebration designed to help us clear out spiritual clutter to see where God is moving.
It is modeled and encouraged throughout scripture as a way for us to declare, “God you are more important to me than X, Y, and Z.” It is also a way for us to take focus off ourselves and trust in God’s goodness as we spend extra energy and time engaging in spiritual disciplines. Not all fasting needs to be food focused.
If you have walked through or are currently active in an eating disorder you may feel triggered with hearing talk of fasting and abstaining from food. You may feel overwhelmed, scared, ashamed, confused or a variety of other emotions. You may even begin to feel the tugs of harmful behaviors and secrecy wanting to emerge.
If this happens to you, it is important to surround yourself with people you trust. Reach out to your Christ-centered community, your therapist or an Ethos staff member to receive support. This is a time for prayer, encouragement, and accountability. The body of Christ is here to support and encourage all our members. That means you too. James 5:13-16 outlines the power of communal prayer and support.
When looking at how you want to participate in Awaken this year, Dave outlined steps to follow in the book Revival Starts Here, that I would encourage you to read. A linked excerpt outlines how to choose a fast and create a plan with accountability. http://www.ethoschurch.org/how-to-choose/
Here are some additional points to consider and be prayerful about in choosing your fast as it relates to disordered eating and body image:
· Spend time in prayer with God, ask him to reveal his heart toward you. He is a good father; he knows what we need physically, mentally, and spiritually. James 4:7-8
· Identify motives for fasting. Ask God whether these motives are life giving or life harming.
1 John 4:1
· Identify any distorted thoughts, or if there is a presence of shame or pride attaching itself to the ideas of fasting. Isaiah 61:7
· Identify if any urges to fast are fueled by a desired body image or seeking control.
If any of these things point to maladaptive behaviors or habits, seek support. Again, find a trusted friend, counselor or mentor and spend time confessing these thoughts or behaviors and bring them to the light through prayer. Ask Jesus to reveal his truth and his heart for you in this season. When we focus our eyes on the one who created the world, our perspective is put back in place and life feels more stable.
Sit with God and ask him to help you identify anything that is taking his place as Lord of your life, ask him if there are ways to fast from those idols. This can be done by taking a minute to prayerfully picture your life. Ask God to reveal what sits on the throne of your life. If it is anything other than Him, ask him if it is something you need to fast from. Give yourself space to be still and listen for his guidance. Fasting is an invitation, not a rule. As you identify what to give up, ask the Lord to show you what to replace. Example: Fasting from social media could lead to prayerfully encouraging friends and family or spending more time memorizing scripture.
Fasting options may be, but are not limited to:
· Limiting time on social media or other devices
· Intentionally eating each meal daily and nourishing yourself with God as your witness
· Abstaining from complaining or gossiping
· Eliminating make-up from your daily routine
· Reducing or eliminating physical intimacy
· Avoiding looking in the mirror
· Abstaining from shopping
· Fasting from excess sleep, or the desire to push your snooze button
· Removing dating apps from a device
· If you would like a food component: you may choose to fast from coffee, or a favorite crunchy snack throughout the month while still making sure your body is receiving all the nutrients it needs.
There are many options you can take to participate in this month of fasting, regardless of where you are in your journey with an eating disorder or body image. Be prayerful. Seek out other believers and go through this time in community. If you feel triggered, share that with a therapist, a trusted mentor, or reach out to Ethos staff at email@example.com
Listen for truth, the voice of God is life giving and inviting. The voice of the enemy is condemning and shaming. It’s important to know the difference. If you would like to learn more about connecting to God through prayer, sign up for Freedom Prayer at, http://www.ethoschurch.org/freedomprayer/
May this season be a blessing for you and your relationship with the Lord.
Contact Ethos Pastoral Team: firstname.lastname@example.org
Freedom Prayer: http://www.ethoschurch.org/freedomprayer/
Ethos Counseling List: http://www.ethoschurch.org/grow/counseling/
Participate in Sunday Night Prayer Gathering at Ethos Offices: http://www.ethoschurch.org/connect/sunday-prayer-gathering/