Help! I’m in my first (or second, third, etc.) day of a fast and I feel awful. My stomach is growling and my head hurts. What shall I do?
Hunger is normal, so expect that. Headaches can be caused by caffeine withdrawal or by simply being hungry. Usually you can fight through these symptoms. If you can make it till evening and get to bed, you’ll likely sleep well and wake up feeling better in the morning.
Staying busy helps too. Or if your schedule allows you to take a nap, try that. The discomfort you feel during the first few days will eventually leave, allowing you to continue on your fast.
I’m on an extended fast and I haven’t spent much time in prayer for several days. Shall I quit?
The short answer is, “no.” Don’t quit for that reason.
It’s not uncommon for me to find myself “going through the motions.” Being on a fast does not guarantee that you’ll naturally experience vibrant prayer and spiritual bliss. Instead you’ll discover that as the body settles into a comfortable rhythm and the mind begins to relax, you experience a new normal. It still takes discipline to set aside time with God – yes, even while fasting.
Whenever I find myself going through the motions, I think about quitting. Then I survey the effort involved to get to this point and I don’t want to waste it.
If it’s an extended fast (10, 14 days or more), I recognize that there are only a few times a year I might have this opportunity. It takes emotional energy and calendar planning to gear up for an extended fast.
Use these times of doubt to reassess the purpose of the fast. Even if you decide it’s time to end the fast, give it another full day to close it out on a positive note.
During my extended fasts, I try to journal prayers every day. But it doesn’t always happen. For example, during a 14 day fast I might have two or three consecutive days (or more) where I’m in a trance and disconnected from the spirit of the fast. That’s OK. Each day you don’t eat builds a hunger that can result in very meaningful day later in the fast.
Not every day has to be a great day. And not every fast has to feel like a great fast. Remember, fasting is prayer. And prayer often feels flat.
I’m on a fast and things are not going well at home. My kids are getting on my nerves and my wife and I are not getting along either. I’m not in the mood to fast and I want to quit. What shall I do?
If you are wondering where these scenarios came from, they come from my own experiences.
We’d like to think that when we fast, God opens the windows of heaven and suspends all the noise around us. But it doesn’t seem that way. Fasting can sometimes seem far too normal. And sometimes, worse than normal.
During a fast, the body and the mind are at war with the spirit. There will be challenges. My growling stomach may cause me to be snappy and short with those closest to me. This is usually my reminder to put on my spiritual armor and fight my flesh with the fruits of the spirit. Fasting is a battle, so gear up.
There’s another dynamic going on. Spiritual warfare. I don’t fully understand how it works. But the enemy absolutely wants me not to fast. Arrows will fly to discourage me. Often when I want to quit, that provides me the very motivation to keep going.
I’m on an extended fast for x days and every day I’m counting the days until I’m done. I feel guilty about that. Is that normal?
Yes, it’s completely normal.
Everyone I know who sets out for a 7, 10, 21 or 40-day fast is counting the days until it’s over (or for a short fast, you’re counting the hours). This doesn’t mean you want to quit. It just means you are eager to be finished and to resume normal eating and social activities.
There are also times the body feels wonderful and you’ll think “wow, I could do this forever.” (You can’t of course.) You’ll have some rich moments with God and be reminded that fasting truly is special.
But most of the time you are counting the days in your journal and whispering to yourself throughout the day, 4 days down and 6 more to go.
I’m on an extended fast but a situation has come up and I really think I should eat. Can I break the fast for a meal, or a day, and resume?
I have done this a few times. Once I was on an extended fast and my son and I were invited to a campout. I wanted to participate with my son and I didn’t want to explain not eating to the other men. So in the middle of the fast I launched into hot dogs, hamburgers and yes… smores. The next day I returned to the fast. It was a toxic shock to the body but I was willing to pay the price. I continued my fast successfully.
Another time I was on a fast and a close friend who was going through a personal crisis came through town. He needed my company and I went out for a meal. I ordered a salad. I had awoken the hunger system and it took a few days to put it back to sleep.
These examples are the exception, however. For each exception, I have many more situations when where I stuck to the fast and did not waver, even in the face of tempting (and even seemingly justifiable) situations.
Breaking and restarting a fast is not recommended. It does disrupt the flow of the fast – physically, mentally and spiritually. But remember the rules of fasting – you set the rules. With experience, you’ll learn when and how to allow exceptions to come into play.