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Thinking about an Extended Fast? Lessons Learned from My Gen Z’er

My daughter is 21, a Gen Z college student at a very large, secular, state university. She was raised in the church and is a critical thinker, soon to graduate as an engineer. She has been trained to solve problems, told to think critically, and to question everything, including the faith she was raised in. So, for her to make it out of college as a more mature believer with the courage and yearning to dig into her faith to find the answers she’s looking for in Scripture instead of the world is nothing short of a miracle.

I tell you this so you can understand why I have hope for our Gen Z kids.

Our church is in the last week of a 21-day fast. My daughter is participating from 230 miles away. She has fasted before and we have talked thoroughly about it and she has given others information and resources about fasting. This is her second extended fast. As we spoke on the phone yesterday, she had several very insightful thoughts to share about her experiences during this fast. As I digested (no pun intended…well, maybe a little one) what she was telling me, the Holy Spirit was prodding me, saying this was important.

Here are some insights I learned from her about fasting:

Participating with a community is vital during a fast.

Even though she is so far away, she is watching the service online and feels connected as she reads the same things we are reading and is inspired by the stories being told from the stage. She said she can’t imagine doing it completely alone but knows that God is glorified in her obedience and the fast is giving her opportunities to share this discipline with others as she comes in contact with her friends during the mealtimes that she is skipping.

There is a pattern to extended fasts.

Since I lead several groups and a women’s study, I’m constantly speaking to people and hearing stories of how their fasts are going. I had not put the pieces together until my daughter said that she noticed a pattern in her fast:

  1. Week 1: You desire to draw close to God
  2. Week 2: The Holy Spirit convicts you of your sinful nature.
  3. Week 3: You anticipate where God wants to take you.

I have heard this pattern from countless people over the last 2 weeks!

Week 1

The first week we are learning to slow down and listen to God. We are reorganizing our day to find more time for prayer and turn our hunger for food over to a hunger for God and more of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This is a week where our bellies remind us to pray but as the week goes on, our desire to connect to God overtakes the issue of depriving ourselves of food and we become more aligned with God and his will.

Week 2

Then Week 2 comes along, and as we are submitted to deeper prayer and vigilance to the calling of the Holy Spirit, we are convicted of our fleshly desires. This is when impatience pops up and a short temper occurs. The areas of our lives that we keep mostly hidden under the water line of what the world sees come to the surface. We are being shown the areas of our lives that are not turned over to God’s care and control.

This is a hard week. Without community to talk it over with and confess our sins, we can decide that it is too hard. We are too broken. This is when we need to repent and ask the Holy Spirit for perseverance and we must be reminded that the Holy Spirit convicts us. He doesn’t condemn us. We are found not guilty because of Jesus and His lordship. But God does want us to change our ways and become more holy. That is where Week 3 comes in.

Week 3

In Week 3 we get to see glimpses of where God is taking us. It is exciting and a little scary. The visual that comes to my mind is at the top of a ski slope right before you go down or at the top of a rollercoaster. You know it is going to be the ride of your life, but you aren’t exactly sure what will happen or how you will react in the moment.

The safest option is to sit at the top, but you know that the ride down will be thrilling. This can lead to a bit of trepidation as we see where God is leading. Some of us are more comfortable where we are than taking the risk of change–even when we know that it is God leading the way.

I thought I was the teacher in my relationship with my daughter, but as she matures, I am learning to listen more and glean little nuggets of truth that God is trying to teach me through her.

It is my job to edify her and let her know that what she is sharing is Holy Spirit-given. Gen Z Christians have good things to say. The Holy Spirit is alive and active in them. Let’s be a culture that listens, learns, and shares what the Holy Spirit is doing in our lives.

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