As we approach the national holiday of Thanksgiving, I was reflecting upon my recent reminder of what it looks like to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
I had recently asked the Lord to help me fast and rest in Him. He accomplished both through one virus! (No, He doesn’t give people viruses, but He does allow trials into our lives, and then He brings good out of them.)
I have noticed that, when I’m very ill or in chronic pain, time slows down. Things that would normally occupy my thoughts and time become less important because I don’t have the mental or physical energy to spend on them. This actually makes me a lot more aware of the Lord’s presence. Not only am I aware of my need of His strength, but I sense His sweet, comforting presence in a deeper way when all the distractions of life have been put aside.
I experienced a number of blessings in my recent 12 day bout with an intestinal virus. For one, I’d been wanting to lose 5 pounds before Thanksgiving. (I lost 9.) But more importantly, I experienced many evidences of God’s comfort and love, and re-learned a few important lessons.
Thankfully, as long as I didn’t eat, I was able to do things. At just the right moments, I was blessed with beautiful sunrises and sunsets. At other “just right” moments, I got a call from our son because he wanted to share something he was excited about that God had done in his life. One of our daughters gave me the helpful advice of drinking Gatorade when I couldn’t eat. That was a life saver! One of the high school students that I mentor actually sent me a text message to wish me well! (Text messages from mentees are rare.) And my wonderful husband took good care of me.
The important lesson that I re-learned was in regard to fasting. I love food. It is hard to give it up. But I found that I didn’t even desire it when I knew that I would not like the consequences of eating. I saw that it’s easy to fast when our desire is strong enough. My motive for fasting during this virus was to avoid the painful consequences of eating. But how much more admirable it would be to fast because I earnestly desired to bring the needs of others to God!
God calls us to both times of fasting and times of feasting. Fasting is a time of mourning over the circumstances of life (ours & others’), as we bring those concerns to the Lord, seeking His intervention. God doesn’t want us to do anything ritualistically, but He wants us to do everything out of a heart of gratitude and compassion. Why do we go to church? So we can join with fellow believers in pouring out our thanksgiving to God, and also to learn, and to minister encouragement and comfort to one another. Fasting and intercessory prayer, as with any form of giving, should be motivated by a heart of compassion for others. God is love and He wants love to be the motive for all that we do.
But once we have presented our concerns to God, He wants us to rejoice in knowing that He’s in control, and enjoy special times of feasting and thanksgiving. It’s amazing how much more I appreciate my food after a period of fasting! And while I’m thanking Him for my food, I can continue to thank Him for the many other blessings He pours into my life daily.
So I thank the Lord for this humble reminder of His love and pray He’ll empower me to care more about others than about my personal comfort and pleasure. But I’m also thankful that He provides special times of feasting and rejoicing, and I certainly intend to enjoy our Thanksgiving feast with family and friends!