Post written by Chelsea Andres.
I never fasted until my 30s. Granted, I was busy with child rearing and feeding in my 20s. In college, it seemed an unimaginable step toward holiness. Now wait, I take that back… I tried fasting from food with friends in high school once during a youth group retreat. A few of us were eager to seek the Lord in a fresh way and, honestly, we wanted to do something extreme. As I remember it, the adults in charge put a stop to it after a few hours because they didn’t want to be responsible for us having any negative reactions to the adventure. It was really discouraging, actually. The flame of our young faith was snuffed, albeit unintentionally, without much explanation. “You’re too young, “ they said. “It’s not good for you,” they said. “You don’t understand what you’re doing.”
This was a missed moment for teaching and encouragement. When Paul wrote to Timothy, “Let no one despise you for your youth” (1 Tim 4:12), he was getting at an important idea, that faith–no matter how young–is still faith, should be encouraged, and can uplift the church body.
So when you think of fasting, do kids come to mind? Teenagers? Some, like my old youth leaders, would say no because kids can’t understand and shouldn’t give up food. Fasting, as we are learning as a church, is not just about food and deprivation. Fasting is about seeing our need for help in weakness and seeking Him who is our only true help. Fasting is about rejecting what distracts, putting it aside, for the sake of clearer focus on Jesus. Fasting is also about remembering all that Jesus gave up–for us and his glory. I think we can all agree these are beautiful lessons for the young among us to learn.
When talking about fasting with kids–your own or family members or students or young friends–always start with Jesus. He is our “why.” As God, Jesus put aside glory and supreme comfort and “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death” (Phil 2:8). Jesus is our example in all things and “preeminent” (Colossians 1:15-20). We follow him in sacrifice by fasting: giving up a comfort in honor of him and practicing going to him when uncomfortable or weak.
Jesus also fasted as a man, 40 days in the desert! He also was heavily dependent on prayer to the Father while on Earth, which goes directly with fasting. If Jesus did these things, we can and should do these things and call young people to them, too.
What can kids–little or big–fast from? Why not ask them? Kids are smart and know what they love. If it is their idea, it will be more exciting for them and more likely to make an impact. Otherwise, here are some ideas:
- T.V. and/or movies
- Video games
- Social Media
- Sleeping In
The idea is helping them see how often they turn to these things of comfort and that they can give them up for a time. This time could be filled with special family fun, times of prayer and singing, or picking up a different hobby, reaching out to a hurting friend, writing a card to someone who is sick. Encouraging them in this way will build up their tender faith as well as the church body. Discipling the young brings joy to the older and makes for stronger future faith. As you plan for your own fasting, consider the kids in your life. They’re not too young to follow Jesus.