My senior year of college, I was faced with a difficult decision to make. It seemed that either choice would have been OK, but I knew that my choice would greatly affect me in the days to come, and would lead to either a lot of joy, or a lot of heartbreak.
I had already faced my fair share of heartbreak during my college years, for various reasons, and wasn’t too quick to come back for a second helping. I knew well that some of the pain I had experienced was due to choosing to plow ahead with my own plan and my own desires, rather than to be patient until I knew that I had heard God speak.
And isn’t that how it goes with us? When we don’t get an answer in the time frame we desire, we simply go ahead and make our choice. I find myself so many times heading down the path that I have chosen, looking over my shoulder, calling back to God, “You should have stopped me, if this isn’t what You wanted. I would have done what you asked, but I couldn’t wait anymore for an answer!” Somehow we decide on a time frame, and we give God ultimatums. “God, I have to have this all figured out by next week. If you don’t show me what to do, I’m just going to have to pick something, and hope for the best.” Oh, we don’t say this in our prayers. But it’s whispered in the intents of our heart, in the deep places that we often forget are there.
So knowing my tendency to become impatient, I made a decision about how I was going to make my decision. I felt strongly that I needed to do something purposeful to help me understand what God wanted for me, to help me hear His still, small voice. To be still and know that He is God. I needed to fast. But I was a full-time college student. I was taking a full load of classes and working part time. Not eating was not an option for me. So I began to re-examine the purpose of fasting.
Biblical fasting by definition is the abstinence from food for a period of time, typically in order to spend more focused time in prayer and meditation. I knew that I needed to focus my heart and mind on God. I did not feel led to abstain from food. But what were some daily things in my life that I could lay aside for a time, in order to be more focused? It didn’t take long for my mind to rest on the thing I knew I needed to temporarily cut from my life: media. Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and music were my daily distractions, and I gave to them what little brain space I had left after classes and work. (I would also list TV and movies here too, but we weren’t allowed to have TVs in our dorm, so at the time, it was a non-issue.) So away they went. I deleted the apps from my phone, and made the conscious decision that for the next week, I would fast from all media- Christian or secular. No music, no social media, no books (outside of my studies). My deepest desire was to silence the chatter in my mind and my heart, and give God my full attention. I wanted to show Him that this time I would listen.
I thought that this decision would be extremely difficult to stick with. I thought I would surely bomb. I was just waiting to be so miserable that I gave up on the whole thing. But none of those things happened.
Instead, the result was beautiful. It was healing. I felt so clean. I felt so calm. I felt so close to God. Even though I was living in a dormitory, on a campus with a couple thousand people, and coping with a busy schedule, I truly felt God’s presence in my life, and I felt our relationship grow. It was like hitting the reset button on my spiritual life. The time that I had previously given in the evenings to listening to music, browsing Pinterest, stalking people on Facebook, and being jealous of everyone on Instagram, I gave instead to reading my Bible and talking with Jesus.
That decision I had to make? Slowly, but surely, like driving out of a thick fog, the right choice became very, very clear. And by the end of the time period I had set, I felt confident in my decision, and was able to share my decision with those who were waiting to receive it. I could look everyone in the eye and state with certainty that I was doing the right thing. It was a good feeling. Inevitably, some people did question my choice. But because I knew I had heard from God on the matter, their opinions did not sway me in the least.
After my time of “fasting” was over, I slowly introduced media back into my daily routine. But I found that I wasn’t desperate to jump back in head-first, as I had assumed I would be. I found that I enjoyed the peace and quiet that omitting the various voices of media had brought. And I found that I so loved the closeness I had felt with Jesus, that my music choices inadvertently became more discerning, because I didn’t want to reintroduce distractions into my heart.
Today, looking back, I can see clearly how that one choice affected my life, and I will always be grateful for that dedicated quiet time I created to let God speak to my heart.
What choice do you have looming before you right now? Or maybe you aren’t in the midst of making a difficult decision, but you’ve been feeling out of balance, far from God, or just plain distracted. Could a media fast be the thing that could help you listen to God more closely?
Make It Happen
Pray about designating a time period (I suggest a week at minimum) that you can fast from media.Temporarily delete all of your social media, music, video, podcasts, and even game apps from your phone, and choose not to browse the internet, turn on the television, or read for entertainment. If this sounds extreme to you, there are two things to keep in mind: 1. This is only for a short time; and 2. We have so many things in our lives that we cannot take a break from, or avoid, but most (if not all) of us can choose to step away from media and entertainment for a while.
I would also suggest that you take a break from even Christian podcasts, music, books, blogs, etc. (yes, including Hopefully Home!) during this time. These things are often encouraging and worshipful and can be tools that God uses to speak to us, but there is something so special about making a conscious effort to drown out the whole world and “look full in His wonderful face,” even if only for a short time. The two most powerful, unadulterated tools that a Christian has at his disposal are prayer and the Word of God. The effects of making full use of these two tools are life-changing.
I chose not to share with anyone about my media fast at the time. I felt like it needed to be between God and me. But every situation is different. It may be best for you to share with your spouse, children, or roommate, so that they can support your decision and not create additional distractions for you.
Have you ever done a media fast, or chosen to fast from some other distraction in your life? I would love to hear the story of how God used that time to strengthen your relationship with Him. Please share in the comments below.