Fast Grief

Cold, thick, dewey glass, and that red iconic label everyone’s familiar with. Santa Claus, Mean Joe Greene, Max Headroom, and Polar Bears love it. So do I, but I try not to indulge – too often. Coke is not *good* for you, even though EVERYTHING goes better with one. And somehow, the icy dark caramel color and crisp bubble of it makes the whole world sing because…. it’s the “real thing.” (In perfect har-mo-ny!)

Every January our church bands together and does a Daniel Fast. In a way, fasting is a reset button for me. There is never a moment of its duration when I don’t think about it or feel it – emotionally, physically, spiritually. Before the fast begins, I’m faced with what I won’t have for the next 21 days: a Coke. In life’s daily goings-on, I usually don’t crave the stuff, but when it’s gone…. when it’s eliminated from a possibility… when it’s out of arm’s reach…… then….

What’s surprising is that time and distance don’t make it easier to live without what I want… what I crave.

The Bible assumes we will fast.

when you fast, anoint your head
and wash your face.”

(Matt. 6:17 ESV)

But… there’s nothing “fast” about it. Science cannot prove what those of us who fast are certain of: fasting makes the clock tick slower; so does grief.

Those who have not endured such a permanent fast don’t understand the contradiction: sometimes, the longer we are without the loved one we crave… we crave them more.

The world seems to rush about in a blur while the griever stands still in their craving, and for the grieving clock-watchers, each tick-tick-tick pushes us farther away from the hour we last saw our beloved’s face; the hour the clock became heavy and its weight chained itself to our hearts. Life feels like the battery just ran out and the proverbial “ticks” that used to proclaim your future are stuck. You hear the sound but the hands don’t move.

Believers fast for varied reasons. We fast for guidance, for protection, to show humility and repentance, for spiritual strength and power, and as an act of intercession or worship, to name a few. When believers fast, the time is holy. For the grieving saint, the fast comes when the clock has stopped and its face stares at ours.

When Nehemiah heard about the destruction of Jerusalem, he wept and grieved before the Lord for the sin of his people. His pain was so profound that prayer alone would not suffice, and so… he fasted as a way to express his grief. After the Israelites’ loss in battle to the Philistines, all the people wept and fasted, and when David heard of the death of Saul, his son Jonathan, and the Lord’s people, he and his army wept and fasted.

A few days without bread or water or nourishment would normally result in certain dehydration and death, but when Moses fasted, he did so in the cloud and fire of the sustaining Presence of God.

Old Testament scholar Nahum Sarna said, “Moses had a transformation of his self, transcended worldly constraints and was absorbed into the Glory of God.”

Grief has caused you to lose your appetite for life, and circumstance has insisted now that you live “without.” But Dear Friend, something else happened to Moses after his time of without…

“The skin of his face shone…”

 So will yours.