Sometimes I fast, but I get nothing out of it. I don’t understand how having a bunch of dietary restrictions actually helps me with anything, and I’m not really sure what the point is in general. Wuzzup, yo?! It does nothing and doesn’t really affect my relationship with God. Why do you guys make food sound evil!
To respond to this, we need to zoom in a little bit about what fasting *IS*, and then we can see if it could/would/should affect your relationship with God.
First, it is a practice of self control. From it, we learn how to say no to ourselves for our immediate carnal desires. This is not because food is wrong or evil, or it would always be wrong to eat. Rather, we are learning how to say no to ourselves, because that is an important discipline in life, and no virtue can be acquired without some degree of self-restraint. By nature, we all like to be comfortable and we like to give ourselves whatever we feel like. Someone who wants to be a swimmer cannot be a good swimmer if he eats fast food 24/7. Is fast food “wrong”? No. Is too much fast food wrong? Yes. It’s not about whether food is good or bad, or God demanding it, but because we need it.
Second, we have a spirit. We are not animals. Animals are body and soul; we are body, soul and spirit. When we fast, we are disciplining the body to enter the warfare of the spirit. We are going beyond the physical realm and into the spiritual, just like our body has ways to be nourished and growing, so do our spirits, and one of the ways is through fasting.
Third, God fasted. When Jesus walked among us, He fasted. Not only did He fast, but He made it clear that we are supposed to fast as well. He didn’t say if you fast, He said, “when you fast” and went on with His instructions. When the Pharisees asked Him why His disciples weren’t fasting, He said, “they will”.
Fourth, when we fast, we are not focused primarily on just a change of diet. That is not the goal of fasting. We subject our bodies to that and simultaneously devote ourselves to a spiritual program, and more prayer. The fasting is couple with something, it’s not an “end” in itself, it’s a means.
Fifth, gluttony is wrong in Christianity. So, irrespective of fasting, we should be moderate in our foods. But there are certain foods which lead a person to more lethargy than others. For example, eating a hefty steak and fries makes you feel in one way, while having a balanced salad and lean protein another. One gives you energy and makes you feel light, while the other one makes you lazy, tired, and full of lust. So there’s a value in intentionally keeping yourself vegetarian for a period of time, that is beyond just “self-control” but also because of the actual effect of the foods themselves.
So, if doing these things altogether, yes, it does lead one much more deeply into their relationship with Christ. We strive to live as Christ lived, to put on Christ and for Him to live in us, so if He took Himself immediately after His baptism and fasted for forty days, then we get to go with Him into that depth as well. When He was fasting, what did the devil immediately try and do? Tell Him to break His fast! The first temptation was for Him to eat! Why would he bother? He knows that if someone starts to have power over the body, the devil has less strength over him. The devil, your enemy, wants you to just submit to him. But when we go with Christ into fasting, we are entering the realm of the spirit, and with Christ there is victory and growth.