Whenever I get too caught up in myself, in my emotions, in the struggles and the pain of this life – what often brings me back down is not mere comfort or peace or even anything that could take my sorrows and pain away. What brings me back is a renewed focus/perspective of the larger picture, the picture of a fallen world worse off than I am. I am reminded that there is a world that is broken and hungry and afraid out there, and that I am here to help that world.
In Isaiah 58, God criticizes the selfish fasting of the Israelites. Their fasting was marred with quarrels and fights, with exploitation, with selfish desires. He asks, “Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?”
I have to remind myself when I mourn and fast for my own sake and self of the kind of fasting God wants. He wants the fasting that looses the chains of injustice, that unties the cords of the yoke, that feeds the hungry and clothes the naked.
Essentially, the kind of fast that God wants – the kind of fast that ends up inevitably bringing personal healing – is a life lived for others rather than for the self.